Reviewer Colin Speirs (link >>> ) has already requested a sequel to my novella The Ice War (link >>> ):
This alternate history novella is not about the great differences between our world and the world of the book. Instead the reader is given enough to be getting on with and then the story and characters are the focus of attention.
Our protagonist is no superhero spy, he has a cover and a mission, but events take a turn for the worse quickly. His actions are those of a human being doing what they can, and the choices he makes are hard.
The setting, a harsh colonial frontier and supporting cast are believable. The turn of events humanly stupid and ultimately futile. Despite only having a brief introduction to the changed world, you care about the mission and the effects of the new conflict on the balance of power. Basically, important thing, the story sucks you in and pulls you along at speed, before causing your heart to leap to your mouth as you realise what Johnny Bornewald must face.
If he does not produce a sequel sharpish then I shall be most upset.
Well, who am I to ignore such a demand? During the last few days, I have begun planning a stand-alone sequel that deals with some of the consequences of Johnny’s and Linda’s dramatic adventures in icy Alba. It is just a matter of scheduling my spare time properly.
French inventor Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot built the first functioning steam wagons around 1770 (link >>> ). In 2010, a group of students at the Arts et Métiers ParisTech engineering university built a replica of one of Cugnot’s designs and put it to work with a reasonable success.
A horseless wagon must have been an impressive device in the late 18th century, but I guess that the poor quality of roads in those days prevented the widespread use of such a heavy vehicle. However, in a tarpunk or early-steampunk alternate history, improved versions of this wagon could possible become useful provided that the inventors developed broad low-pressure wheels for contemporary gravel roads.
I have already reviewed book 1 of The Atomic Sea, Jack Conner’s diesel-fantasy tale of war, horror and conspiracy (link >>> ). It ended with a cliff-hanger at which book 2 picks up the relay pin and moves ahead at full pace. Our hero, Dr Avery, his band of rough sidekicks and a semi-supernatural humanoid dash through a war-torn wilderness to reach a “sacred” device before their enemies catch them.
And that is more or less the plot for two volumes. When I read book 1, I expected interesting sequels. Unfortunately books 2 & 3 do not deliver the goods. Underground caves, strange vehicles, exhausting escapes, grisly human sacrifices, evil purported “gods”, and blood-spattered fight scenes — but also frequent morasses of words. Every once in a while, there is a scene catching my attention, such as the trip by river boat in book 3, but then I run into another verbose fact dump — usually an explanation why the world is such miserable place in so many ways — disguised as a dialogue. And the gory scenes with extra-dimensional horrors involved quickly lose their punch because there are too many of them.
Yes, the world itself is a potentially interesting diesel-era stage for Dr Avery’s adventures, and he is a character worth caring for. However, The Atomic Sea needs some ruthless editing and a more varied plotline. With such measures it would become a better book series — the wherewithal is certainly there.
NASA has outlined how to investigate the hydrocarbon seas of Titan with a robotic submarine. It is an exciting proposal (read it here — link >>> ) but the tentative schedule is not to my liking. If the venture gets realized, I will be in my eighties at Titan touchdown.