Thursday, 25 November 2010

Book Review: Evolution Expects by Jonathan Green

Evolution Expects is Jonathan Green's fourth book in the Pax Britannia steampunk series.

The main character, Ulysses Quicksilver, is a James Bond style agent for the British Government.

 This book sees several issues from the previous Quicksilver books arise and come together to form the most danger plot against the British Empire that our hero has so far faced. Old enemies re-emerge and disquieting scientific discoveries, thought to be disposed of turn out to have more life in them. This expands on the whole created world of Pax Britannia quite nicely, it is however a little disappointing that Jonathan Green has basically gone back and reused previous plots for this new novel. Personally I would like to see Quicksilver venture a little further afield, although he mentions trips to far off lands, most of his literary adventures have squarely focused on the British Isles (excluding Leviathan Rising, which took place mainly at the bottom of the ocean). There is such a fantastic world often mentioned in the books, from the lost plateaus inhabited by dinosaurs to Shangri-La, and the various other world powers that are vying for domination. It would be nice to see a little more of the wider world in these stories.

There are some interesting new characters that emerge in this story including the plucky whore that has greater depths than even Quicksilver expects, and also the masked vigilante who uses a rocket pack and bat-winged cape (every "not-Batman" joke is slipped in and is a nice touch of humour). Both characters will bear further examination and I hope that Green brings them back in future books.

As has become usual with these books, after the main novel Green adds a short novella into the book. This usually features Quicksilver in a more minor encounter, possibly little more than an interlude. However, the novella included with Evolution Expects, titled Conqueror Worm, doesn't feature Quicksilver, but instead one of his ancestors. The story is built up around the traditional tale of the Lambton Worm and has a wonderfully dark plot that moves along at a cracking pace.

Overall this is a very good and easy read the main novel ticks all the right boxes and has a good mix of humour and some very dark moment indeed. The novella, Conqueror Worm, which is to my mind even better than the main novel, is a swashbuckling adventure with highwaymen, sinister plots and a particularly nasty creature as it's centre piece.
I certainly wouldn't class this series of books as anything more than good "pulp" adventure, but then again they are not trying to set themselves up as anything other than that.

Although each of the books can be read individually there has been a connecting plot building subtly in the background over the whole series, so I would certainly recommend that anyone new to the Ulysses Quicksilver books starts at the beginning with Unnatural History!

In the next few weeks I will be reading the next book in the series Blood Royal, I will of course let you know what I think once I have completed it!

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