Leviathans in the Clouds by David Parish-Whittaker and Steven Savile

CLOUDS
Leviathans in the Clouds by David Parish-Whittaker and Steven Savile
Space 1889 and Beyond Series
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (90 Pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

It all seemed so straightforward at first…

Quantity surveying in the rain drenched swamps of Venus. How hard could it be? Endure a bit of rain, dig about where directed and Bob’s your uncle. To be sure, there were the local carnivorous lizards the size of houses, occasionally hostile natives and the local German colony, which had never proved particularly reasonable when it came to servants of the Crown digging about in what they clearly felt was their back garden. But by now, that sort of thing was barely more troublesome than setting out an afternoon tea for the good crew of the Esmeralda II.

True, some might call a plan a touch problematic if it requires bailing out of an airship in a single-seat experimental glider while a Venusian storm rages. If said plan also involves landing in German-controlled territory in order to meet a marginally sane geologist named Jungle Ned, one might even call the whole affair tricky.

But things go from tricky to worse when they arrive at Ned’s hideout and find it ransacked and covered with indecipherable symbols. Of Ned there is no sign other than a single hidden note: The gods brought themselves down. Before they discover its meaning, our heroes will find there is more to Venus than just peat bogs and hungry fauna. Forgotten secrets linger in the mists. And sometimes what is forgotten is still very much alive…

I like the premise of this novel (and indeed the entire series) that space travel was an everyday occurrence in Victorian times. Leviathans in the Clouds is a Victorian novel which just happens to take place on Venus. Annabelle, Arnaud, and Nathanial are given what seems to be a perfectly straightforward assignment. They are to use single-seat experimental gliders to travel down from their airship through a Venusian storm in order to find a geologist named Jungle Ned Collins and at the same time locate the vitally important asterium ore.

I like the characters in this novel, and the authors capture the flavor of the time period with great accuracy. The trio of Annabelle, Arnaud, and Nathanial makes for an effective and at the same time unusual mix of talents and nationalities. Annabelle is definitely my favorite. She is an American woman working for the British, and she understands all too well exactly how women are treated, even a highly capable adventurous woman who happens to have an artificial leg. Her spirit and her pluck are very inspiring, and she manages to save the two men in spite of their efforts to take care of her. The trio has Thymon, a lizard-man native, to guide them, and Thymon is a marvelous character. He is intelligent, loyal, and definitely most capable in a wide variety of situations. The trio would be lost without his assistance.

Once the trio lands on Venus, the adventure begins in earnest as they meet with a number of deadly enemies. “Murderous mad scientist or carnivorous insects?” Annabelle shuddered. “Why don’t we ever discover something pleasant? Perhaps a panda or an alien puppy, for an example.”

The plot moves swiftly with one deadly adventure after another. There are twists and turns which I did not expect, and I found the story to be both fun and exciting.

I recommend this novel to any who enjoy fantasy with a Victorian flavor. There are different species to encounter and other worlds to explore. Come aboard the airship Esmeralda II and enjoy the adventure.

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