In the Post: Arabella of Mars

Arriving in the mail, from Powell's, last week was my signed copy of David D. Levine's debut novel Arabella of Mars. I started reading it last night and realized that, as of late and unbeknownst to me, I've been on an automaton kick.

This book features an automaton in the shape of a harpsichord playing man (secretly being fixed by the main character, Arabella, a 19th century English girl born on Mars—who shouldn't be interested in such unlady-like things).

Only a few chapters in, Arabella of Mars reads like a mixture of  alternate history, early naval, steampunk, & early sci-fi novels. There's definitely a throw-back to earlier science-fiction writers, so lovers of the early genre will get a kick out of the world(s) Levine has created.

 The story takes place in the Regent era of England as well as in a Jules Verne-like outer space / Mars. The language is a combination of Martian terms and modern English with a few more formal, almost Shakespearian phrases thrown in (the use of 'tis or "on the morrow" stood out). There is a little acclimating to be done in order to accept the more inventive elements of the story, but that doesn't seem to hinder folks reading and reviewing this over on Amazon and Goodreads. Along with consistently receiving 4 and 5-star reviews, it's garnered a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Although it's not really fair to compare the books, the last book I read, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, also features a 19th century England storyline with a bevy of automata & a gender bending girl (although not the main character). That book fits more into the magical realism/fantasy category. The book moves slowly at first, but once all of the characters' stories converge it gets a little harder to put the book down. There are a few bumps, twists, and red herrings to keep you on your toes, with some rather subtle (and not so subtle) clues that foreshadow specific events.

This got starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

Of note: Both are debut novels & I would recommend both of them for science-fiction / fantasy collectors.


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