Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Rhianna Pratchet has reviewed Set the Seas on Fire for the September 2007 issue of SFX magazine and, aside from having some trouble spelling my surname consistently, she seems generally to have liked it, with a few reservations.
Taking to the high seas for a Napoleonic naval romp is a bit of a departure for Chris Roberson. best known for his SF works and the Shark Boy and Lava Girl adventure series. And there's definitely some boyhood fantasy fulfilling going on here as Robinson [sic] spins the tale of Lieutenant Hieronymus Bonaventure (angsty, yet manly, master-swordsman, who also appeared in Robinson's [sic] novel Paragaea) and the crew of the HMS Fortitude
After a battle with a Spanish galleon is interrupted by a storm. Bonaventure and Co. are forced to sail into the "mare incognita" (the unknown sea) to find suitable land for repairs. Thankfully, they wash-up on an island where the natives are friendly, lithe of limb and flower-bedecked and not inclined to have them upside down in a big pot before they can say "weevil biscuit?"
When two members of the Spanish galleon's crew turn up claiming to have escaped from an island where their shipmates have gone mad, the novel kicks up the pace, steering away from its Horatio Hornblower beginnings and moving into more Lovecraftian territory.
Although it's a neat way of side-stepping the usual naval-novel fare, the marriage of these two genres isn't completely harmonious; neither nautical enough for naval fans, nor truly horrible enough for horror buffs. We never properly get to know any other characters outside of Bonaventure, so it's difficult to care what happens to them as they set foot on the island known as the "first volcano." That said, Robinson's [sic] prose is very readable and the story has a fair amount of Boy’s Own-style charm.