After Space 1889 & Beyond’s strong start, deep plunge and somewhat recovery with Ghost of Mercury, I started reading Abattoir in the Aether by L. Joseph Shosty with mixed feelings. This novel would basically decide whether or not I would read the next and the rest of the first series. The case has been settled.
The events of Abattoir in the Aether take place on the secret heliograph Peregrine Station. Annabelle and Nathanial happen to stumble upon it while limping through the Aether, trying to reach Mars. The station is manned by British and Austrians and some others employed by the two empires.
Let’s start with the things I did not like, it is basically sloppy scholarship again. Franz Joseph is not the King of Austria, he is the Kaiser, just like Friedrich III is Kaiser of Germany. Austrians do not talk Austrian among each other, they speak German in very much the same way people from Tennessee do not speak Tennesseeian but English (although I sometimes find it hard to believe…). And there are also some token Bavarians on board and Annabelle is instantly able to distinguish between Bavarian and Austrian… There is virtually no difference between Lower Bavarian and Austrian and most Germans would be hard pressed to distinguish an Austrian from a Bavarian (pet psychotic hatred alert!).
None of the above diminished my reading pleasure in any way, so I happily continue with the good things:
Mr. Shosty manages to create a really wonderful and strange setting for his tale. Peregrine Station is a human outpost near an aether vortex and the vortex is just about to swallow the station due to some techical difficulties. The station is lavishly decorated and everybody is very clean and perpetually happy. A feeling of unreality is created. The scientist in charge, Professor van den Bosch, a Dutch scientist, is behaving strangely to say the least and hides a monstrous secret. His command crew are clourful but also rather excentric characters and I could not shake the feeling there was something seriously wrong with the whole gang. Then, a murderer fails and the station turns into a claustrophobic maze where Nathanial and Annabelle cannot be sure who is a friend and who is not. A cat and mouse game literally on the edge of the abyss.
The story has quite a few surprises and revelations in store and as many twists and turns as the hallways of Peregrine Station. It is a very captivating read. There is enough action and mystery in the pages to keep the reader on edge and it never gets tiresome. L. Joseph Shosty manages to keep his audience in the dark about what is really going on almost until the last page.
The only thing I found disagreeable was the motivation of the true villain. It is a bit too one-sided, out of the blue and historically incorrect. Never mind.
Mr. Shosty has created a little gem you can easily finish over the course of an afternoon and evening and it offers a glimpse on the lesser known facettes of the Space 1889 universe.
Nine out of ten Zeppelins.