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by Mark Hodder

5 stars

I love Mark Hodder and this might be my favourite of his to date. I was expecting another steampunk tale, but this is high Victorianesque, inter-planetary SF. It has more in common with HG Wells than Burton & Swinburn; a corking tale of derring do on an alien world.

A Red Sun Also Rises is a first-person narrative, told by Aiden Fleischer, a weak and hopeless sort; a failed vicar turned useless missionary, who becomes a true and selfless hero on an alien world – A world whose civilisation has been, accidentally and unwittingly, completely re-modelled by his companion and former servant, the terribly crippled Clarissa.

It’s a terrific story; unique and completely, wonderfully bonkers. The world-building is especially good, complete and well-imagined. The characterisation is superb, the aliens especially, with their caricature Bertie Wooster speech and absurd, Dickensian names – Colonel Momentous Spearjab, Mademoiselle Crockery Clattersmash, Lady Falldown Bruisebad – The good humour and likeability of all the characters is what sets this above others in this genre for me. There are deeper themes, too, a dose of subtle philosophy as Fleischer’s questions his faith, his quest for good in an evil world as he searches for God in the evil around him.

I loved the smooth, neat, completely surprising ending – leading into a sequel? I hope so.

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