So here it is, Leviathans in the Clouds (Space: 1889 & Beyond Season Two), the second Space:1889 & Beyond tale set on Venus and I was a bit weary. After the horrific Nazi-stereotype parade that was Vandals on Venus I braced myself for impact.
My fears were unfounded, I am glad to say. There is only one instance of germanophobic anachronism in the whole novel I come back to it later.
Now for the good bits and there are plenty of them.
Leviathans in the Clouds starts with a little jewel: Adonis Station. I love this place. It is the seedy space bar every space (or æther) pirate wants to visit, only it is not a bar or hideout at all. It is an official outpost of Her Majesty’s Navy. And it fit so well with the atmosphere on the Esmeralda with emotions running high: A half-crazy French scientist, Arnaud, Nathanial and Annabelle continuously teasing one another with Nathanial still unsure about his feelings and what he wants and Folkard caught between his future wife and his (I think grudging) friendship with Nathanial.
After a short stop on Adonis Station the adventure begins: Annabelle, Arnaud, Nathanial and the Lizard-man Thymon set out on an expedition in search of a geologist who may have gone native and who is a bit bizarre.
The whole trip from the descent into the clouds by glider to the trek through the jungles of Venus to the characterisation of the lizard-men is gripping and fascinating. Especially the glimpses on lizard-men culture we get via the conversations between Thymon and Annabelle are most enlightening, and Thymon also gets the best line in the novel:
“And humans looks likes the egg eaters to us. Is no problem. Just no eat eggs of
Skreelan, oh kay?”
That one made me laugh.
Leviathans in the Clouds is not all fun and laughs, though. Far from it. For one, the trek through the jungle distinctly feels like something from Heart of Darkness. Further, our protagonists stumble upon an ancient secret and uncover a monstrous secret which almost gets them killed and another one hinting at things in Venus’ distant past. I cannot say more for fear of spoilers.
I am also happy to say one thing: Thymon survives the novel. I feared he would be relegated “token native” and become a convenient sacrifice. Maybe we see him again later in the series.
Also, I was pleasantly surprised about the non-hostile treatment and portrayal of Germans in the novel. Sure, due to the rivalry between them and the British some nasty comments from our friends are expected but they are shown as humans who do not cross certain lines even when faced with starvation (you will see what I mean).
Leviathans in the Clouds gets nine out of ten Zeppelins
And this is the aforementioned single anachronistic germanophobic statement (regarding a German character of historical note, actually):
More prone towards pining over a flower than invading a country, one might say.
This statement makes no sense in the time frame. In 1889, the German Empire had not invaded a single country (and no, the French crossed the border first in the Franco-Prussian War, in case you wondered).
Please stop making Fawlty-Towers-esque mistakes like this, it is not funny anymore and rather insulting.