Tuesday, 21 June 2011

‘Scarlet Traces: The Great Game’ – Ian Edgington & D’Israeli (Dark Horse Books)

I’m a sucker for sequels, aren’t we all? If you’ve enjoyed the opening chapter of a series then it’s only natural that you’re going to want to go back and get more of the same in the follow up. Well, it wasn’t quite like that for me this time round but I couldn’t help but go back anyway for the sequel to Edington and D’Israeli’s ‘Scarlet Traces’...

Right at the very beginning of this month I reviewed ‘Scarlet Traces’ and found myself saying that ‘Scarlet Traces’ is a lovely look at what H.G. Wells’ classic could have led onto but falls short when it tries to tell it’s own story within it. There was enough there though to hold my interest so while I won’t be going out of my way to find future books, I’ll grab them if I see them and you’ll see the results here’. At the time, I thought this was a fairly safe thing to say as it didn’t look like there were any sequels to pick up. One visit to the library later and I was to be proved very wrong. Looking at the cover for ‘The Great Game’ I had my reservations but it was a sequel and, no matter what I think of a book, if there’s a sequel then I find myself really needing to know what happens next. So, what happened next? More reservations and issues, that’s what...

The action has now moved forward to the mid nineteen forties and the British led invasion of Mars had ground to a halt with a war of attrition having been fought for the last forty years and costing thousands of British lives. Plans are brewing though, the Martians are planning a brutal counter attack and there is something else happening on the Red Planet that the British Government don’t want you to know about... What is photo-journalist Charlotte Hemming doing in the middle of the war zone then? Charlotte’s not entirely sure (other than that a face from the past pointed her in that direction) but what she will find there could well redefine the face of our galaxy.

‘The Great Game’ appears to have a lot going for it, at least as far as the blurb goes. I mean look at it; you’ve got the continuation of a pretty momentous finale from the last book as well as the chance to meet a familiar face and see how Britain has moved on from the end of the nineteenth century. It’s all looking pretty good so far so it’s a real shame then that the book fell down sharply for me as far as the plot and it’s depiction went.

Artwork first and I’m really not sure what happened here as ‘Scarlet Traces’ gave us artwork that may have been a little too bright for the eyes (and perhaps too revealing) but was very detailed and gave us a real in depth look at how Britain could have evolved ‘post Martian’ invasion’. To be fair, we do get more of the same this time round and attention has been paid to the fact that Britain has been through even more changes in the intervening forty years. What I wasn’t keen on at all was the way in which the artwork started out looking very sketchy and like it hadn’t much attention paid to it. Maybe I was spoiled by a prior volume that had artwork geared more towards online publication... Whether that was the case or not, it felt like the artwork was being pushed to one side for the sake of the story and that didn’t feel right to me. There were some absolutely gorgeous scenes of warfare on the Red Planet itself but it felt like these came too little too late in terms of the overall effect.

I think the fairest thing I could say about the plot itself is that repeated reading will probably throw up things that you will miss first time round; I think that’s probably what happened with me (although I did read the book more than once). How many times do you read a book before reviewing it though? I had to stop sometime and that’s where you find me, with a story that somehow felt incomplete and a little confusing. I think the confusion can be attributed to the sketchy artwork which the reader relies upon to gain clues but finds there isn’t enough detail to get the answers that they are after. It felt like there were a lot of good ideas (the machinations of the British government and the movement of life across our solar system) but not enough room to really let them grow organically into something cohesive. What you get instead is the ‘villain’ telling Charlotte everything right at the very end (because she’s surely going to die anyway, right?) and I’ve seen that device used far too many times for it to be truly effective here. A little bit more attention paid to developing the story and this wouldn’t have had to happen.

Like I said, I’m a sucker for sequels but I also know when to stop reading and that point is right here. ‘The Great Game’ rounds off the events begun in ‘Scarlet Traces’ but not in a good way at all. How can a story ooze such potential yet leave me so disappointed? Oh well, onto the next book...

Six out of Ten

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