Mars is supposed to be dead.
But in this action-adventure science fantasy by Michael J. Martinez, it most certainly isn’t, and Lt. Shaila Jain (part of the Mars mining base in 2132) soon finds herself in a bit of hot water as quakes rattle the planet, carving unnatural structures on the surface of Mars. Meanwhile, in an alternate 1779, Lt. Thomas Weatherby of the British Royal Navy sails through the solar system in an attempt to recover something stolen – and discovers something more sinister than theft along the way.
Military sci-fi has always been difficult for me to get into, but when I picked up THE DAEDALUS INCIDENT, the initial reservations I had about trying a new genre were put on hold. Though I’d been worried the military language of both the future astronauts and alt-history sailors would be daunting, the writing style was accessible and straightforward, with both parties being clever and funny enough to feel like real people.
The plot of DAEDALUS is a bit lengthy and involved; it would make a great rainy-day read, since the large and diverse cast of characters can be a bit much to manage when reading over the course of several days. I definitely enjoyed reading, though, and getting to know each character – my favorite, aside from Shaila, was probably Finch, the alchemist on Weatherby’s alternate British frigate.
Speaking of alchemy, I found the explanations of both universes pretty interesting in and of themselves. I love sci-fi for the world-building, and both the mining base on Mars and the alternate history ships are fascinating. In the alternate history, alchemy develops rather than science as a means to travel, allowing ships to sail through “the Void” between Earth, the moon, and various planets, including a British colony on the Jupiter moon of Ganymede and interactions with denizens of other planets.
The twists and turns of the plot drew to a conclusion I didn’t expect on a path I DEFINITELY didn’t expect, and it was the sort of action-driven plot that keeps a reader engaged. The actual alchemy and science parts aren’t confusing, though as I mentioned before, the characters can get a bit confusing – I found the historic British characters more confusing, since they weren’t exactly diverse in most aspects, though I did like the alchemist a lot.
Overall, I’d recommend THE DAEDALUS INCIDENT for people who enjoy both science fiction AND fantasy, accessible language that’s not pretentious, and action-driven stories with interesting and relatable characters. (4 out of 5 stars)