The Martian Diaries Vol. 2: LAKE ON THE MOON Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The Martian Diaries Vol. 2: LAKE ON THE MOON Review

Alexander Wallace uncovers the secret of the lake on the moon.
I have previously discussed H. E. Wilburson’s The Martian Diaries series here, with my review of The Day of the Martians. I like that book; it was brief and intimate and didn’t fall prey to the problems that a number of riffs on H. G. Wells’ earth-shaking novel often does. So, how does the sequel, Lake on the Moon, stand up?

First things first, this is a longer book than the first by about forty pages, which clearly makes for a longer reading experience, but one which never feels padded. There is very much a core narrative Wilburson is advancing, and he averts the problems of some series that I have read where the books become more and more clunky as you go along; in my experience, Eric Flint’s 1632 series gets hit with this pretty badly.

Likewise, Wilburson retains the interesting decision made for The Day of the Martians here in that he is consciously trying to ape the style of H. G. Wells, in all its elegance and all its verbosity. Here, more than in the first book, I found that it slowed down the narrative in a way that can be tiring after a certain point. Edwardian pomp needs to be restrained at times to be readable in the twenty-first century.
In terms of its plot, it gets weird, perhaps the strangest of all the expansions of Wells I have ever seen. The Day of the Martians was standard fare for this subgenre of science fiction-cum-alternate history; Lake on the Moon introduces a level of esoterica I haven’t previously encountered in these Wells sequels. Without spoiling too much, it reminded me strongly of Stephen Baxter’s authorized sequel to The Time Machine, entitled The Time Ships, with a healthy dose of science fiction thrillers along the lines of Blake Crouch’s Recursion or Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World.

Although Lake on the Moon adds to the sense of mystery and wonder that good science fiction has, it is complicated to the point that I can easily see some readers being quite confused. The readership may also degree as to its appropriateness vis-a-vis The Day of the Martians; it’s quite the tonal shift, in content if not in writing style. You could read it as an unprecedented swerve, or you could read it as an appropriate escalation of the conceptual stakes. Caveat lector.

Otherwise, Lake on the Moon retains much of the strengths and weaknesses that The Day of the Martians had. If you liked the first book, or are a fan of H. G. Wells and the various works that build on him, you will enjoy this second book in a series worth following.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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