Space 1889 & Beyond: Double Review

Cover of Journey to the Heart of LunaThe e-book series Space 1889 & Beyond is out and I have already been lucky enough to get a review copy of Journey to the Heart of Luna and Vandals on Venus. Both are relatively quick reads, which is why I am going to review them in one go.

Journey to the Heart of Luna by Andy Frankham-Allen was quite a refreshing reading experience. The closest thing to military steampunk fiction I have thus far encountered. Military is maybe too much a term, more naval steampunk fiction. Andy manages to convey the atmosphere on a British airship en route to the Moon in a way that makes you feel you are on board. I was under the impression he had probably served with the Royal Navy himself or else just manages to conjure the right images in the reader’s mind.

The story itself is fairly predictable if you are familiar with the Space 1889 setting and the few adventures set there in the first edition of Space 1889. Since this is something I have come to expect in RPG-related literature, I do not mind at all.

Some of the characters may be a bit one-sided, especially the Russians, but since this is a short tale, character development cannot really happen. The story is also not quite free of old, stereotypical tropes, in particular the strong, independent female who is not quite in keeping with the time. However, this is one of the staple adventurer classes of Space 1889, so it is completely in keeping with the setting.

All in all, I really enjoyed Journey to the Heart of Luna, eight out of ten Zeppelins.

 

Now for Vandals on Venus.

Quite a different reading experience but we get to meet some of the protagonists of Journey to the Heart of Luna. It is not quite the same caliber, though. I actually stumbled over one of the first sentences:

William White woke instantly, his brilliant mind alert at once.

Well, a bit overkill, is it a sign of genius if you „wake instantly“ and are „alert at once“? There are a few more sentences like this: Quite powerful but somewhat off descriptions for characters and scenes.

And this description is odd:

Though Nathanial Stone was a brilliant inventor and spent a great deal of time bent over a desk, he had a tall, lean and athletic appearance and was in excellent health.

This implies inventors are usually not tall and athletic… Excuse me? Inventors are normally small, shrivelled and frail? Tell that one to Edison or Benz.

The clichés continue, especially when it comes to characterizing the German officer (who I think is meant to be representative of the German military as a whole, if not even the Empire):

Where to start? I can accept the stupid name, Otto Kurt: Just take two names you connect with Germany and slam them together. Then the use of „token German“. Otto Kurt uses „Verdammten Englisch“ on and for every occasion. The phrase does not make sense. It proves he is most likely an illiterate Russian spy posing as a German officer or something and getting away with it because the Venusian swamp gases have made everybody else deaf.  The correct phrase would have  been „Verdammte Engländer“ or „Verdammte Briten“ „Verdammten Englisch“ makes as much sense as „Damned France“ in „The damned France have beaten us at football.“ (for my US readers: soccer). Believe it or not: Google Translate would have helped (although it displays the wrong definite article, actually, I just checked). Curiously enough, according to the short story, his English is excellent.

Oberst Kurt displays none of the characteristics of a Prussian soldier, what he displays are the characteristics of a Waffen SS (Totenkopf) Sturmbannführer. Yes, I am aware these two get mixed up a lot, but the mistake has been made for the past 60 years or so. It is about time it stopped. Next time you want to portray a Prussian soldier, take into account there was more to them than just military efficiency, otherwise, this story could never have happened. And do not mix them up with Nazis, they were not.

And the German Zeppelin… Oh yes, the Rheingold. Another stereotypical German word, probably lifted from a Wagner CD. Just a few minutes in the Wikipedia would have revealed what German Zeppelins were actually named after (if they had names at all).

And best of all: Although the story focuses on the British, supposedly, it is the Americans who provide the key actions neccesary for victory.

So what old, worn out tropes do we find (you can cross-check at TV Tropes, if you like):

All Germans are Nazis? Check!

Everything sounds more evil in German? Check!

America saves the day? Check!

Vandals of Venus is not badly written. In fact, it is a fun read but it is totally predictable as soon as the villain is introduced. Right down to the humiliating defeat he will eventually suffer. Still,  it is a chain of old tropes,  and also shows laziness or unwillingness on part of the author to get a few basic facts right. As I said, a couple of minutes on the Wikipedia and a visit to Google Translate would have improved the story a lot.

Three out of ten Zeppelins.


7 Responses to Space 1889 & Beyond: Double Review

  1. Pingback:Space 1889 & Beyond: Double Review | The Traveler's Steampunk Blog | Edwardian Steampunk Culture | Scoop.it

  2. I have read the first book, A journey to Luna and currently I am halfway trough the second one.
    I can only say that I wholeheartedly agree with your comment.
    The Russians in the first book don’t get that much ink, but they seem pretty stereotype. I’m not entirely sure ‚Tovarich‘ is a word that was commonly used in imperial Russia, but on the whole I feel like they are portrayed as soldiers doing their job. And doing it pretty good until the Brits arrive.

    The portrayal of the Germans in the second book is also something that bothered me from the moment they entered the page. And I’m no German. I can only hope that some nuance will be placed in future villains, but not to much, once in a while a well done cliché can be a fun read.

    Both books are good entertainment and I’m looking forward to the next instalment.

    Sincerely and so fort,

    RGMS

    • Hey RGMS,

      thanks for mentioning the use of „Tovarich“, I forgot to put it in the review, you are right. It was definitely not a term used commonly in czarist Russia.

      I like clichés if they are used well. I found the Indiana Jones Nazis and Hans Lada in Inglourious Basterds highly entertaining. Same old trope, but nicely done. Also, Lada had a bit more depth to him. Oberst Kurt does not, he is simply the brute in this image(click it). And I find this offensive.

      Have a good one!

  3. Glad you both liked it. In regards ‚tovarich‘, I will simply say that this series is set in an alternative past, so what’s to say this term was not coined earlier than in our history? Certainly my Russian friend, who provided the translations, had no problem with such.

    But, guys, you’ve made no comments about the fun has on Luna itself! Giant ants, crazed scientists, secrets beneath the surface… 😉

  4. Yeah, there’s a fine line between spoilers and reviewing the rest of the story. Not to worry, you’ll get a chance to revisit Luna and the madness there at the end of series one. Lots of new spins coming. 🙂

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