A series of adventure novels, which means all or nothing. Now, keep in mind that I am a big fan of steampunk... You may now get an idea what the series is about. Before I bore you with the juicy facts, read how the author describes his world:
"In the closing years of the 20th century the British Empire's rule is still going strong. Queen Victoria is about to celebrate her 160th jubilee, kept alive by advanced steam technology. London is a fantastical sprawling metropolis where dirigibles roam the skies, robot bobbies enforce the law and dinosaurs are on display in London Zoo. Welcome to Magna Britannia, a steam driven world full of fantastical creations and shady villains. Here dashing dandies and mustachioed villains battle for supremacy while below the city strange things stir in the flooded tunnels of the old London Underground." [Source]The main characters of his books are the debonair dandy adventurer and freelance agent of the Throne, Ulysses Quicksilver and his manservant Nimrod. Ulysses is a mix of Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and Indiana Jones.
So far the series consist of five books and I own a copy of each. But there are more to come. The next book will be published in December '09. Every book unfolds a bit more of the world, and a bit more about Ulysses Quicksilver, similar to the Dresden Files. Now, let's have a look at each book. I will give you a summary and some thoughts in my own words. The exception will be the fifth book -- for which you just get a blurb ,because you will be getting a full review next week.
The series started with Unnatural History (2007) [US][UK] by Jonathan Green, which mostly takes place in an alternate London.
There is an Overground instead of the Underground. The zoo of London harbors dinosaurs. There are colonies on Moon and Mars. Charles Babbage's differential machine is in use. Airships reign the air. And it's the year of Queen Victoria's 160th birthday. During a break-in at the Natural History Museum a watchman is murdered. Soon after a Professor of Evolutionary Biology disappears. And hefty Overground rail crash frees the dinosaurs of London Zoo. But Queen Victoria can depend on Ulysses Quicksilver....
I left a comment on Goodreads: Ulysses Quicksilver remained me a bit of Indiana Jones. Don't expect philosophical thoughts. The whole book is an enjoyable read and has a good flow. For me as an non native English speaker it was not difficult to read.
So if you like partially incredible adventures - think of Indiana Jones - and a world full of steam then give it a try.
El Sombra (2007) [US][UK] by Al Ewing, the second book of the series, is in many respects an exception. Beside a different author the story takes in the heart of Mexico! The country is ruled by the Ultimate Reich.
The town of Pasito has been torn apart by the steam-driven wings of the Luftwaffe. Then Pasito has been rebuild as a clockwork-town where people should become human robots. The whole area is under control of General Eisenberg. But there is one man who will face the Nazis and bring hope to the people: El Sombra.....
Included in the book is a short story - Fruiting Bodies - by Jonathan Green, featuring his dandy hero, Ulysses Quicksilver. The story is set some months after the events in Unnatural History, the first novel of the series. Quicksilver has to deal with a strange death in the East End. A prostitute is found dead, her body covered with strange fungus...........
A kind of Zorro fights Nazis who use big steam driven weapons to reclaim his town.
That is the shortest version of plot summary for this story.
What I didn't like are the torture scenes.
After 80 pages I was thinking to stop reading this book but fortunately I didn't. So I got the good descriptions of the steampunk stuff. But If you, don't mind torture scenes and a lot of violence, like bigsteampunk driven machines and weapons, a fast paced story and a partly open end then read it. You don't need more than one day to read it.
I liked the steampunk parts of El Sombra and I liked Fruiting Bodies
After the El Sombra break the series continues with the next adventure of Ulysses Quicksilver. In Leviathan Rising (2008) [US][UK] by Jonathan Green we go underwater. Ulysses Quicksilver has been invited to a cruise around the world. It is a special cruise on board the Neptune made by the Carcharodon Shipping Company. And what is special about ship cruise? The Neptune is the most advanced submersible cruise liner!
With Quicksilver on board it doesn't take long until a chain of calamitous events unsettle the crew and the passengers. There is murder and sabotage on board. And outside in the depths of the abyss the legacy of a secret war between Magna Britannia and the Chinese empire awakes: The Kraken........
The book also contains the additional novella Vanishing Point by Jonathan Green. This time Ulysses has to deal with ghosts and mysteriously machines.
I liked the story which is a mix of steampunk, The Abyss, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in eighty days, secret research and a whodunnit murder mystery.
With Human Nature (2007) [US][UK] by Johnathan Green Ulysses returns to London and surrounding. It begins with a usual crime of an unusual thing. The Cruickshank's Cabinet of Curiosities get lost of his main attraction: The Whitby Mermaid. Just the right case for Ulysses. But to his surprise he is only second in the raid of the case. Detective Gabriel Wraith is on the case. But that does not hinder Ulysses to take evidence. This is not the only mystery to be solved. Who is the man behind the criminal boos Magpie? Is the mysterious House of Monkeys involved in the theft? His investigations take him North to the "home" of the mermaid. Which horrors contain the Umbridge estate and the abandoned mines beneath? The moors of Ghestdale - are they haunted by an infernally hound?
Ulysses Quicksilver will discover the heart of the darkness and he has to fight for his life. Beside the fast paced action the exploration of different myths give the story some depths. Anways the book is as entertaining as the predecessors but darker. And Jonathan Green is not afraid to injure his hero drastically.
It seems to be a good custom to add a novella. This time we can enjoy Christmas Past by Jonathan Green. It features the three "m": Mystery, Murder and Mayhem sttled in a traditional festive Christmas.
Soon after the events around the Whitby Mermaid Ulysses Quicksilver has to face a new challenge: Evolution Expects (2009) [US][UK] by Jonathan Green.
"After more than 150 years as the supreme power on the planet, the British Empire has become a corpulent, stagnating monster. At its heart lies Londinium Maximum, a city under a near-permanent cloud of noxious smog. More than ever before, the realm of Magna Britannia needs a saviour - a man like new Prime Minister, Devlin Valentine. But while London prepares for the launch of the Jupiter Station there are those who want this longed-for change to come about more quickly, people who are prepared to give evolution a helping hand. When a deadly legacy returns, Ulysses Quicksilver finds himself drawn into that pit of despair known as Bedlam. With a dangerous masked vigilante stalking the streets, a monster from Jewish myth on the loose in the East End and rival gangs fighting for control of the city's underworld there may be nothing Ulysses can do to prevent a catastrophic metamorphosis!" [Source]And again Jonathan Green delivers an additional short story: Conqueror Worm. Maybe you have heard or read this title before? Then I must say: You are right. It is also the title of a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. With this novella, we jump back into 1797 and get to know Cassandra Tyrrell, a the female secret agent. She rescues Sir George Sackville from highwaymen but to at what price...
The next book in the series will be Blood Royal [US, Apr 2010][UK, Dec 2009], by Jonathan Green.
"Magna Britannia, bestrides the globe and the solar system beyond like a colossus. Yet its capital, Londinium Maximum, still flounders in the aftermath of the unprecedented catastrophe that has so recently befallen it.
St Paul's Cathedral entertains a new congregation, one driven by its own unholy creed, while a coldly clinical killer is carving a name for himself across the city, a name that has been whispered upon the streets of Whitechapel for over a hundred years. Further afield, in the wolf-haunted heartlands of Europe, the spectre of war rears its ugly head. And at the centre of all this death and destruction stands a seemingly innocent child.
Ulysses Quicksilver, heroic figurehead for a beleaguered nation, is about to find himself thrown into the thick of things, as the royal families of Europe prepare for a conflict the like of which the world has never seen, and the consequences of one insane holy man's actions become painfully apparent. With the way ahead unclear, one thing is certain: the world, and Ulysses Quicksilver, will never be the same again." [Source]
I must admit I sent a pre-order for the book!
Finally let me say that I'm not the only fan of PAX BRITANNIA. Graeme over at Greame's Fantasy Book Review likes it as much as I do. In June 2008 Graeme interviewed Jonathan Green. I must quote the last question and answer because there we find a hint how many books to expect:
" 10) Finally, why should everyone be reading your ‘Pax Britannia’ books?
Because they’re great fun reads and an entertaining way to take yourself out of the world for a few hours. Also, there’s a big story in there that’s steadily beginning to take shape (and which I had planned from day one), so you want to be there for the ride and the dramatic denouement in about… twelve books time (or thereabouts)."
And now, buy the books, read them, and have fun with an awsesome hero in a gorgeous steampunk world... Viva La Steampunk!