Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The Rise of the Iron Moon by Stephen Hunt

I've just finished reading The Rise of the Iron Moon, the third in a sequence of novels by Stephen Hunt. Last year I read the previous book, The Kingdom Beyond the Waves, and enjoyed it very much.

As before the novel is set in the alternate/far-future steampunk world of the Kingdom of Jackals. Steamman Coppertracks informs a gathering of distinguished scientists that he believes there is life on the red planet of Kaliban but is laughed off stage.

Later it turns out that he was quite right. A comet (the "Iron Moon" of the title) changes course and returns to earth and is used as a base for an invasion. An nearly invincible Army of Shadows attacks and quickly destroys the armed forces in the countries neighbouring Jackals. It's clearly The War of the Worlds time.

Fear not, for the Kingdom of Jackals has the finest fleet of airships in the world. Unfortunately the Army of Shadows makes quick work of the Royal Aerostatical Navy as well.

It's up to Molly Templar, Commodore Black and Coppertracks to come to the rescue, riding a spaceship fired from a cannon to Kaliban where they will get a weapon that can destroy the invading forces....

I enjoyed the book, but I have to admit not as much as Kingdom. Iron Moon seems a little less polished, a little more rushed. In particular the narrative jumps in various places. Just as we are getting to an exciting escape or battle the scene switches to later on and the action is dealt with in a few sentences. Perhaps Kingdom was just too damn good!

Having said that Iron Moon is crammed full of ideas, almost too many for one book. The true identity of the Masters of the Army of Shadows is quite clever. And the author does not hold back from practically wiping whole armies, countries and populations off the map.

Despite my misgivings with this instalment Stephen Hunt is writing some of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time. I look forward to volume four and in the meantime I still have The Court of the Air to read.

Note to publisher, don't dare change the wonderful retro cover designs for these books!