Time’s Arrow by Jonathan Green
Paris. City of lights. City of lovers. City of dreams. Yet if one man gets his way, its inhabitants will soon be forced to endure a nightmare such as they have never known. But Hero of the British Empire Ulysses Quicksilver is determined to get in his way… although he has problems of his own to deal with first, before he can try to rescue the French capital from its earth-shattering fate. Arriving at a murder scene, Ulysses is forced to go on the run, so that he might track down the real killer. His intention: to clear his good name, and get back to England in one piece and as quickly as possible; for the love of his life is about to take a most ill-advised trip to the Moon. But the terrorist known only as ‘Le Papillon’ is preparing to bring chaos to the capital.
Let’s start with a little history lesson, seems only appropriate when this novel features time travel as a major component. Time’s Arrow was original published slightly differently than the previous Pax Britannia novels. It first saw the light of day as a three part episodic e-novel where the readers got to make a decision at the end of each episode as to where the story went next. The first part, Red Handed, arrived just over a year ago in October 2011. This was followed by Black Swan in May 2012 and then the final part, White Noise, appeared in September 2012. Harking back to the halcyon days of Fighting Fantasy (yes, I know they are still around but Sssh I’m waxing lyrical here) this additional touch of reader participation was a nice extra. The three episodes have now been collected together as one complete story in a paperback and e-book edition.
Poor old Ulysses Quicksilver. He really has been through the ringer just lately. Still a dandy, adventurer and agent of the Crown, but now also a time travelling crash test dummy. This latest adventure finds Ulysses suffering from the aftermath of an ill-advised trip to the Moon and a sojourn to the battlefields of the Second Great War, the events pick up directly after the conclusion of the novel Anno Frankenstein. For reasons I’ll gloss over to avoid spoilers, Ulysses is slightly adrift in time and on the run in Paris. Things escalate rather spectacularly from that point onwards and the manic action doesn’t let up until the last page. How can you not love a novel that features a flying rocket-powered bicycle, a cybernetically-enhanced silverback rampage, and a terrorist with a penchant for butterflies.
As I’ve come to expect from Jonathan Green’s writing, there’s a boat-load of steam powered action set pieces, a fast paced plot and some great throw-away pop culture references for a reader to spot. It’s become a favourite game of mine to see how many of these references I can spot in each new adventure. Everything from classic black and white movies to vintage video games gets a look in this time out.
Those of you who have read The Eloquent Page regularly will be well aware of my fondness for the world of Pax Britannia and the Ulysses Quicksilver novels. Jonathan Green knows how to deliver quirky adventures that are incredibly easy to get caught up in and contain a sense of unrestrained excitement in the writing. It’s always a pleasure to come across a writer who is obviously enjoying creating his or her work as much as the readers who are consuming it. Pax Britannia is a fun series and well worth investing your time in. I would strongly suggest however, checking out the preceding Ulysses Quicksilver novels before you dive into Time’s Arrow. If you don’t, you’ll be missing out on a brilliant ongoing series. Who knows where steampunk-ninja Jonathan Green will take Ulysses Quicksilver next, I can’t wait to find out.
The collected Time’s Arrow is published by Abaddon Books and is available now.