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Secrets Of The Fire Sea Hardcover – Mar 8 2010
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Praise for Stephen Hunt: 'Hunt's imagination is probably visible from space. He scatters concepts that other writers would mine for a trilogy like chocolate-bar wrappers. This is Philip Pullman with a dose of benzedrine. Hold on to your hat and let yourself get carried away.' Tom Holt 'A ripping yarn ! the story pounds along ! constant inventiveness keeps the reader hooked ! the finale is a cracking succession of cliffhangers and surprise comebacks. Great fun' SFX 'An inventive, ambitious work, full of wonders and marvels' Lisa Tuttle, The Times 'The characters are convincing and colourful, but the real achievement is the setting, a hellish take on Victorian London ! the depth and complexity of Hunt's vision makes it compulsive reading for all ages' Guardian 'Wonderfully assured ! Hunt knows what his audience like and gives it to them with a sardonic wit and carefully developed tension' Time Out 'All manner of bizarre and fantastical extravagance.' Daily Mail 'Rich and colourful !keeps you engrossed !a confident, audacious novel' SFX 'Like a magpie, Stephen Hunt has plucked colourful events from history and politics and used them for inspiration ! Hunts tells his full-blooded tale with lip-smacking relish, revealing a vivid, often gruesome imagination ! [it] brims with originality and, from the first, its chase-filled plot never lets up' Starburst 'Studded with invention' Independent
About the Author
Stephen Hunt has worked as a writer, editor and publisher for a number of magazines and national newspaper groups in the UK. He is also the founder of www.SFcrowsnest.com, one of the oldest and most popular fan-run science fiction and fantasy websites. Born in Canada, the author divides his time between the UK, North America and Spain. His interests include computer programming, the graphic arts and collecting comics. One day he hopes to have a library large enough to house all of his books.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Add in Jethro Daunt, the Circlist priest who was kicked out due do the fact he hears old gods (possessing an amazing talent for deductive reasoning), and his companion Boxiron, the head of a Steamman Knight inexpertly attached to the inferior man-made machine body (with an issue with aggression and stuck gears, not to mention a black market skill set) , and Fire Sea has a cast that not only grabs the readers attention but pulls them through each and every page. Every now and then Jethro appears to be a fantastic hat tilt to Sherlock Holmes, and on occasion made me chuckle with appreciation. His first scene in the book really drives that impression, and I was unable to get it out of my head whenever he was in a scene for the rest of the book.
The main protagonist is Hannah Conquest, ward of the church and math prodigy. She is interesting, but serves more as a reason to bring the rest of the cast together than anything else. Purity and Molly remain far more compelling heroines in my opinion.
The isle of Jago itself presents a creepy, hellish setting. From the corrupting domain of the valvemen to the beasts that roam the exterior of the city there is an omnipresent sense of danger and horror. The book itself is full of murder, conspiracy, and skulking Old Gods, which combined with the setting adds the twisted horror aspect I have come to love and expect from Hunt's books.
The Ursine race added another interesting culture to the social menagerie that populates the world, and the fact the plot hinged on something more mundane than most of the other novels- race/culture conflict between the Humans and the Ursines- the book as a whole was a more intriguing read.
This is a wholly brilliant addition to the series. I highly recommend picking it up!
Then it quickly becomes a fascinating quest for a double-edged god-formula hidden in steganographic code ("a demigod fit for the dark, blasted heart of Jago" p. 426) as new characters enter the stage, including the bright Hannah and her ursine friend Chalph from the Pericurian trading mission, alongside a young Jackelian archaeologist Nani, for this latter of whom I couldn't really care that much.
The author is adept at introducing us to local technology, environment and bit of historico-mythology (steam generated electricity, gigantic subterranean vaults and canals of Hermetica City, and Jago once being the birthplace of the Circlist enlightenment irradiating the rest of the world at the end of the Chimecan Empire and coeval Ice Age), as well as intrigue and subterfuge involving the local Circlist archbishopric vs. the Guild of Valvemen, Stained Senate's Pericurian mercenaries vs. city militia, the machinations of the Archduchess of the matriarchal island nation of Pericuria, and many more…culminating in a large scale armed conflict, with old Blacky's customarily indispensable sabre duel towards the very end.
We also explore the inhospitable, frozen surface interior of Jago, inhabited by feral ursks and simian ab-locks, many of which are forced to do slave work in the hazardous confines of turbine halls deep below Hermetica City itself: "the agonized yells of the ab-lock that lost a leg to the twisting fan of a turbine, or the one that was blinded by a stray squirt of superheated water from a condenser running over-pressurized" (p. 205).
My favourite episodes include a perilous descent in a shaft, in the protection of exoskeletal RAM (Rigid Armour Motile) suit, to fix a jammed regulator gate on a steam tap that reads like some hard SF (ch. 12, 14); and two incidents starring the already mentioned steamman: when struggling with the Steamo Loa named "Radius Patternkeeper, Lord of the Ravenous Fire," who attempts to take possession of Boxiron's mind; plus a cyberpunkish scene of hacking into the central transaction-engine (computer):
"With the valve-mind nipping furiously at his mentality, Boxiron swerved across one of the main data channels and let loose with a trick that had been gifted to him by the same artful mechomancer who'd turned him into the steamman equivalent of a battering ram for the ignoble art of breaking and entering Jackal's locks and engines. Boxiron slashed down with a piece of self-replicating code that scattered like hell's own rainfall above the crowded channel of data handlers below. Without the reassurance of the comfortable system chatter nudging them along, pushing them towards their different destinations, they flew upwards, blindly groping for orders,…for the familiar" (p. 155).
(Contrary to the product description this paperback edition, Harper Voyager 2011, counts not 560 but 439 pages.)
But I have to say Commodore Black has started getting on my nerves. He WHINES SO MUCH! Other than that, I have little negative to say other than I wasn't quite sure how to envision parts of Hermetica City which didn't work well when the book started reaching its climax. There was one rather sudden death of a supporting character that made me sad, but he does have a tendency to kill about 40% of them off during a given climax so it wasn't a total shock, even as it was fairly shocking.
Steam robots, anachronistic super-tech, ancient gods, Sherlock Holmes analogue, conspiracy, mysterious ruins, powered armor, black powder, submarines, a murder mystery and war. You really can't go wrong with a book like this.
I'd give it 5 stars but compared to Court of the Air (#1) and Rise of the Iron Moon (#3), even Kingdom Beyond the Waves (#2), it just doesn't hold up quite as well. The preceding books were just as nuts while being a bit more compelling in their insanity. Compared to those this feels a little dialed in, but it's still so far and away more creative than almost anything else out there, I couldn't help but love it.
Gonna have to import the last 2 I think.