Mundus Cerialis by Sharon Bidwell and Andy Frankham-Allen

Mundus Cerialis by Sharon Bidwell and Andy Frankham-Allen
Space: 1889 & Beyond
Publisher: Untreed Reads Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (78 pages)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

The Heart, a mysterious ancient life form around which the Earth’s moon was shaped, contains the secrets of the ages. Secrets it is willing to share with humanity. Only the British Empire is telling no one, not even their allies. In a concealed base, researchers are developing a method to push the Empire beyond the limits of the Asteroid Belt. To succeed, they need certain, previously unknown, minerals and metals.

To that end they have assembled a top covert team: Scientific genius, Professor Nathanial Stone; American adventuress, Miss Annabelle Somerset; and the former captain of the Royal Navy’s flagship, Jacob Folkard, who is linked telepathically to the Heart. Before the mission can begin, though, they require one more person: French mineralogist extraordinaire, Arnaud Fontaine.

Their journey takes them on a detour to Messor Base, a mining instillation on Ceres, the largest body in the Asteroid Belt. Things are not running as smoothly as they appear. People are missing, fresh meat is being served in the canteen… How far will Dylan Blayney, administrator of the base, go to keep the truth hidden?

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What would the world have been like if the British Empire had reached the stars? This novel, one in a series based on a steampunk role-playing game, is set in an alternate Victorian era where space travel is routine. I found the premise to be entertaining and engaging.

Sharon Bidwell and Andy Frankham-Allen have written an exciting story with great characters. This is the twelfth novel in the series, and the novels have been written by different authors using the same main characters. That being said, I felt that Bidwell and Fankham-Allen succeeded in writing a stand-alone novel that was most enjoyable even without any previous knowledge of the earlier books.

The background for plot revolves around events that happened before the start of this book. Those events are revealed gradually as the plot unfolds and they are revealed in a way that provides a great deal of depth to the story and to the characters themselves, making them more fully human. These details are not required for the action of the story, but as various events from the past come to light, we have a much greater understanding of and sympathy for the characters as they deal with the current situations. Our past does inform our future, and the authors makes that very clear in a skillful handling of the story.

The plot also hinges on a question of the rights of other sentient species. Arnaud Fontaine finds himself in contact with a previously unknown species, and the interaction between Arnaud and what he names the Bubalus species was very believable as well as intriguing. The world on the dwarf planet Ceres is described in great detail, and it was fascinating to imagine what might lie below the surface of the largest asteroid.

I enjoyed this fast-paced adventure. I would recommend it to lovers of Science Fiction, especially Steampunk. I suspect I shall read others in this series and enjoy more of the adventures of Professor Nathanial Stone and adventuress Annabelle Somerset.

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