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Tag Archive: Martian War


Wind Whales of Ishmael cover

Written in 1971 by notable sci-fi author Philip José Farmer, The Wind Whales of Ishmael is intended as a sequel to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  As to genre, it fits into modern steampunk, with its exploration of Earth’s future without reference to the scientific realities of the latter 20th century, and its sailing ships in the sky.  Wind Whales continues the story of Ishmael, the only survivor of Ahab’s failed whale hunt in Moby Dick, a story many literature students have struggled to get through because of its dauntingly long passages of a solitary life at sea.  Ishmael is rescued but by clinging to Quequeg’s canoe coffin he is plunged through some type of vortex, much like the Bermuda Triangle, into Earth’s distant future.  This future world is unrecognizable, and has a few similarities to the distant planet from Avatar.  Along with other of Farmer’s works, Wind Whales is being re-issued by Titan Books in a new library aimed at steampunk readers.  The new printing of The Wind Whales of Ishmael hits bookstores tomorrow, March 12, 2013, with a foreward by editor Michael Croteau and an afterward by Farmer’s nephew, author Danny Adams.

The oddity in Wind Whales is that it has very little in relation to theme, writing style, and characterization to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  So it could have been a standalone story, or a sequel to any number of classic works.  There is of course a future world of whaling and fighting “air sharks” which ties Ishmael to his past life where he threw away all else to enter a life at sea.  Yet the future world of far distant Earth is so different that Wind Whales may have more in relation to Frank Herbert’s Dune series with its giant worms.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Whether you’re a fan of the original novel, Orson Welles’ radio drama, or any of the film adaptations, you’ll be hard-pressed finding anyone who isn’t familiar with H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, in which giant tripod Martian invaders take over on Earth.  What if H.G. Wells wrote War of the Worlds as a cautionary tale, based on facts known only to him and a few other government insiders?  Author Kevin J. Anderson asked this question and many more in his 2006 novel Martian War, re-released this month in a trade paperback edition.

Anderson ponders several “what ifs”–What if the Moon and Mars were as Wells and his contemporaries had predicted in the 19th century, with roaming animals, birds and vegetation and advanced lifeforms?  What if the Invisible Man was a real inventor, Doctor Moreau an actual twisted scientist, and they teamed with a young Wells, his would-be wife Jane, and real-life contemporary English biologist Thomas Huxley and astronomer Percival Lowell?  It all sounds like another take on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and to an extent it is.  Martian War is also every bit in the same genre as Guy Adams’ 2012 release, Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Doctor Moreau, reviewed here this summer.

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