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Space: 1889: 1. Red Devils

01/05/2005. Contributed by Paul Hanley

Buy Space 1889 in the USA - or Buy Space 1889 in the UK

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CD. pub: Noise Monster. Price: 10.99 (UK), $12.20 (non-UK). Serial number: NMPCDSP01).

check out website:

When I received this, I was expecting a book and compounded my error by then assuming it was a DVD and rowing with one of my offspring whom I accused of wrecking the DVD player.

In fact, it is a story on CD but rather than being read by a solitary narrator it is spoken by a cast of actors and the slipcase comes complete with a map and background information.

The background is that Edison, the nineteenth-century inventor, manages to devise a form of spaceship and flies it to Mars which proves inhabited. Very quickly the rival powers are building 'Edison Flyers' and expanding their empires on Mars and the dinosaur inhabited swamps of Venus.

'Red Devils' takes place in 1889 on Her Majesty's ship Perbindesh which is carrying a variety of Victorian characters to Mars including Sir Henry Rouledge, newly appointed governor of British colonies on the planet, and Prince Skerrun, a native princeling returning home after completing his education at Oxford University.

The voyage brings out various elements of Victorian prejudice and it is clear that all is not well. The ship's captain fear pirate attack as he knows there are no friendly warships in the vicinity and pretends to the passengers that they are unable to signal as they are in planetary shadow. He confesses to the new governor that he fears a pirate attack. His concern increases when he discovers they are carrying a venerated Martian object which is being returned to Mars as a gesture by the British government, which requires the aid of one of the native states to secure its trade routes. The German Empire is the villain in the background and due to treachery aboard the Perbindesh, they are attacked by both pirates and a German warship.

The ship is wrecked and when the survivors reach the British base, without the precious relic, they discover the ruler and heir apparent of their client state have been assassinated and the Germans are gaining influence. Prince Skerrun would have inherited the throne but he is apparently dead when the wreckage of the spaceship plunged into the Martian dessert. Whilst there is apparently no hope for him or those with him, such as Sir Henry's supposed niece, a half-Chinese girl who may have been a German agent, there is a possibility that the relic survived the crash. On the pretext of rescuing survivors, the British send out an expedition. At this point, the story abruptly stops. I at first assumed some technical fault but this was as far as it went.

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the CD which lasted for more than an hour but it was rather like a large extract from some longer piece. I know there is another, I assume following CD, available from March 2005 but I am not sure whether this comes in any other format although I gather from the website listed above that this is the first CD and the second has just been issued.

I like Victorian SF. This was jolly good and produced as a play with original music and sound effects rather than merely a reading was enjoyable to listen to. I shall certainly be looking out for the sequel.

Paul Hanley

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