Author: Kevin J. Anderson

Publisher: Titan Books; Original edition (September 25, 2012)

ISBN-10: 1781161720

ISBN-13: 978-1781161722

For some time now, modern writers have had fun spinning yarns that cross-pollinate characters created long ago by their literary inspirations, especially works written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the newer works, Sherlock Holmes has crossed paths with Dracula, Fu Manchu, and Dr. Moreau; Tarzan has battled Doc Savage. Each has encountered actual historical personages ranging from Jack the Ripper to authors Jules Verne and H. G. Wells.

In many such books, there's a heavy nod to the spirit and flavor of old-fashioned pulp novels, that is, stories of adventure and fantasy with the reader required to suspend more than a small fraction of disbelief. That's the case with yet another mash-up from Kevin Anderson who, last year, had Jules Verne spending time with the "real" Captain Nemo. In The Martian War, Anderson goes a bit further by layering together three accounts that could only happen in an alternate universe.

Set in the days when Europe was worried about a coming war with the Kaiser in Germany, student H. G. Wells is working with his science teacher, T. H. Huxley. At the same time, astronomer Percival Lowell has sent messages to Mars hoping to make contact, and does so in the Sahara Desert. He's accompanied by the discredited Dr. Moreau, yes, Verne's vivisectionist, and they capture a specimen they take back to the states. All these personages, historical and fictitious, meet at a secret conference designed to discuss advanced technologies to defeat Germany. But it's revealed a far more dangerous enemy is coming from the red planet. German spy Hawley Griffin, the Invisible Man, sets wheels in motion that send Wells and Huxley to the moon where a dying civilization shares much about what those Martians are up to.

All of this, of course, is intentionally two-dimensional entertainment. Anderson, no slouch as a story-teller, establishes verisimilitude in the early chapters by capturing the nuances of the pre-World War I period before literally leaving planet Earth behind. Invisible men and tentacle Martians may be implausible, but when miracle plants and caterpillar cows start sprouting on a moon where no spacesuits are required, well, you know you're reading a comic book without pictures.

It's readers familiar with the books of Verne and Wells who will be able to spot the in-jokes and parallels to SF classics who will most enjoy this offering. Butter up some popcorn and kick back in your seat—here's another ride in the pulp fiction amusement park.

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