The next installment of the Space 1889 & Beyond series and I can say only one thing: The dive that was Vandals on Venus was used to build up momentum and now it is going full steam ahead. Abattoir in the Aether was already one great novella and A Prince of Mars by Frank Chadwick is, well, I tell you what it is, just bear with me.
A Prince of Mars starts with intrigue and mystery, setting the stage for a more political adventure. Next, we get introduced to Kak’hamish, an old, experienced Martian also with an air of mystery about him. Than the story shifts back to our beloved main protagonists, Annabelle and Nathanael, who once again seem a bit different from the last installment of the Space 1889 & Beyond series.
Both Earthlings are in a bit of a situation, after their aetherflyer crash-landed on Mars and owe their survival to the chance-meeting with Kak’hamish, who is the archetypical noble savage (or is he?).
After Kak’hamish helps them out, in a rather unfortunate way, get ready for a nasty surprize, all three travel on by merchant caravan and later merchant flyer. It soon becomes apparent not every Martian, in their trading caravan and in general, is too fond of humans and of Martians helping humans.
Frank Chadwick uses this whole arrangement, the caravan, the Martian tribes, the cities, everything, to bring his version of Mars to the reader. You notice that this is his Mars and Space: 1889 is his creation. Chadwick adds so much life, so much detail, it is like a documentary in Technicolor.
In fact, the whole novella has the feel of a 1960s colonial-themed movie about it, only it is set on Mars. That is not to say all the bad stereotypes about civilized white men and savage local primitives are taken from the graves where they rightfully rot, no. Chadwick takes the motifs and uses them in a more appropriate context. It becomes quite apparent the colonials from Earth and the Martians are all the same kind of bastards and regular people. Exploitation and friendship happens everywhere.
What I found particularly fascinating was the insight in the machinations of the Cult of the Worm and a look at its priesthood and the look on daily life on a Martian flyer.
The only thing I did not like was the way Kak’hamish makes his exit, this, however is balanced out by the fact that even the main protagonists are not invulnerable. You will find out what I mean by that.
A Prince of Mars is the so far best part of the Space: 1889 & Beyond series, highly recommendable, especially to all who want to take a closer look at what is really going on on Mars.