PROS: Exciting action and strong diverse characters; good use of asynchronous time streams in character development.
CONS: A slightly over-tidy denouement; one element of worldbuilding not explained in any of the texts would have been nice to point out.
BOTTOM LINE: A fine end to the trilogy that has grown along with the author.
Michael Martinez’s Daedalus Trilogy has progressed from The Daedalus Incident, and through The Enceladus Crisis. Set in a pair of worlds, one a possible future for ours, and the other a 18th century alternate world with alchemy and space travel, the fate of these two worlds, and the trapped force that would free itself and rule them both has been a wild ride of adventure.
For Shaila Jain, the events of The Enceladus Crisis and the events that occurred around Saturn are fresh on her mind and in her actions. Her lover is still infected by whatever agent was in the waters of Enceladus. Forces on Earth are still moving forward with the plans to bridge the gap between worlds, with all the danger that implies. With her personal life under threat, and the solar system in the bargain, Jain has had no respite and has to be ready for the next challenge.
For Weatherby, however, another sheaf of years has passed. He has not only gained ranked, but gained a family as well. But events have progressed, and a threat to England herself has risen, literally from the grave. Napoleon Bonaparte, you see, is on the march, and has a corps of revenant undead soldiers to bolster his already dangerous forces. Bonaparte possesses an army strong enough that Napoleon’s dreams of conquering England are far more practical than in our world and history. In the meantime, Althotas, the imprisoned Martian whose schemes have driven the plot of the last two novels, continues to work toward his goal of freeing himself, and gaining suzerainity over both universes. All he needs is on a planet that is a jungle in Weatherby’s world, and a hellish landscape in ours. And it may be the one spot in both universes where he can be stopped, as well.
All spaceways, this time, lead to Venus, in The Venusian Gambit.
The book title is not only a reference to events in the text, but describes the book itself, too. Martinez continues to refine and push his craft, trying new things and experimenting with both sides of his universe, and the asynchronous time streams have are used to cleverly advance events in Weatherby’s timeframe further. I also like how the dynamic between him and Lt. Commander Jain in terms of rank and experience has changed yet again. Weatherby is no longer the fresh faced officer Jain met in the first volume, and seeing how he continues to come to terms with our world and its very different mores and customs is one of the best parts of the book.
Venus as a tropical, primitive world is a stock in trade of pre-Mariner pulp fiction. If Mars is ancient civilizations, fallen peoples and a slowly dying world raging against the dying of the light, Venus is a land of savagery, dangerous locals, dinosaurs, and terrain that is as dangerous as any pulp Mars desert. Such landscapes are also rife with the possibilities for ominous things hidden in the jungle. The adventures on Martinez’s Venus remind me of early European explorers in the Mayan Yucatan, finding danger and amazing wonders hidden in that jungle. While The Enceladus Crisis kept both sides apart, a weakness I dinged the book for, The Venusian Gambit brings the characters, and more, of both worlds together, and it’s delightful to have the forces of each of these worlds on the same page.
I do think the ending of the novel, both on Venus and on Earth, is wrapped up too neatly. I was, truthfully, expecting a little more messiness with the threads and the fallout of events. This does mean that the series completes here, although there is the slightest glimmer that there may be further contact between the universes at the end, someday. In addition, there is an element to this worldbuilding (something that has interested me since the beginning of the series) that isn’t mentioned here, and is never fully explained.
The above, however, are minor complaints. The Daedalus series is a fun and entertaining science fantasy series that is compulsively readable. With a clear maturing of the author’s characterizations, in addition to his refinement of his sense of plotting and action in the concluding volume, I look forward to what Martinez’s pen will bring us next.