Before I get too far into what I want to write for this book, I want to put a general spoiler warning out there as I know that I can possibly reveal a bit too much when I write about the books that I’ve read. Normally I wouldn’t bother, as I am sure that you are aware, however, I think that ever one I have shown the book too has wanted to read it. So you’ve been warned, read on at your own peril. [Cue, Monty Python quotes].
Again, I seem to have steamed through reading this book at a pace even I couldn’t fathom. I didn’t mean too, it just seemed to happen. This past week has been one where I’ve simply devoured books – I finished with “Moon Over Soho”, then “Divergent”, and now “The Martian Ambassador”. I’ve been wanting to read this for some time, not because of the content or the blurb on the back, but because it’s the first in a series, and the second book is screaming out to me to be read. Every time I see it in Waterstones I have to resist buying it as I needed to read this first.
The basic plot is this: Earth and Mars have been in contact with each other for 6 years. They have formed an interplanetary union for trade of science and culture, and it seems to be going swimmingly. Queen Victoria is restored to her youth, thanks to Martian technology, and sits on the throne of the most powerful empire on Earth, covering some third of the globe. The fly in the ointment is the murder of the Martian Ambassador to Earth, and it’s down to Thomas Blackwood to find out who committed the crime before the Martians intervene with, basically, declaring war on Earth.
So, enter Blackwood, his plucky assistant from another bureau, Lady Harrington, and the adventures begin.
What the blurb on the back of this book fails to say, so I was completely, utterly, surprised and incredibly confused by, was the element of magic. Pegged as being a Steampunk book, set in the whole alternative Victorian era with advance technology [thanks to the Martians, it should be said, so I’m not sure that really qualifies as being Steampunk] there are also fairies, magic, occult and something called ᴁther.
When I first began reading I found the writing style to be really clunky, as though the author was forcing himself to write in a style that wasn’t his own, but as I continued to read, this awkwardness seemed to disappear and I got into the story itself, which presents as a really complex mystery with lots of strands. In this case, it wasn’t all that complex. The villains were fairly obvious, and concluded with a closed storyline, yet leaving it open for the sequel.
I feel as though the author treats his audience in this as a little bit on the obtuse side as he frequently repeats what we have already learnt in other mediums. From the revelation of a plot detail, to the repetition of said plot detail whether it’s in the form of a report to his superior, the Queen or the even the enemy reflecting on said revelations. I think that in terms of this there was just too much repetition for my liking.
That being said, over all I did enjoy this story, and I did enjoy the idea of life not only on Mars but on other planets in the solar system, and the setting up of potential threats to the solar system from deep space. There were a few nods to H. G. Wells as well that made me happy when I first read them, then later reflected on whether they were really necessary, but then realised that elements from “War of the Worlds” was a running theme throughout the book, and that actually the author did this with some justice. There are certain bits that unless you’ve read or listened to “War of the Worlds” that you wouldn’t have realised that they weren’t Baker’s own creations such as the Red Weed, the Martian transport machines and the like.
Over all, I think there are quite a few strands to this story but I can’t help but wonder if the author has stretched the themes a little too far and perhaps has fallen a bit short on what he intended to deliver. Magic, Martians and Steampunk is certainly an odd combination. I shall definitely read the next book as I have wanted too as mentioned, for some time.
If you happen to read this, let me know what you think!