|Phoenix Rising is the first published
work co-written by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, and is a steampunk comedy, action
thriller in the style of the film Our Man Flint or the TV series The Man from
UNCLE, that is the beginning of an ongoing series.
The story is set in late
nineteenth century London and concerns nefarious machinations against Her Majestys
realm by most concerned loyal subjects. Unfortunately, this loyalty is to themselves and
their ideals and not to Her Majesty and the powers that be damn their eyes, sir!
The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, for which our heroes Wellington Books (archivist)
and Eliza D. Braun (field agent, disgraced) work, is charged with defending the realm
against the more scientifically artful dissenters that inevitably exist in a society
undergoing such enormous scientific, financial and territorial expansion as Imperial
Britain is experiencing.
Steampunk is a genre that revels in anachronism and absurdity. With these aspects in
mind Ballantine and Morris have written a story that takes advantage of those absurdities
and anachronisms to deliver a fast paced action thriller very reminiscent of the recent
Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downey jnr, with believable characters and
motivations. If I had any complaints they were quibbles of the pedantic, such as referring
to an agent being sponsored by the Australian government years ahead of Federation
but in this milieu whos to say that Federation has not already occurred.
As a closing point I will note that Ballantine and Morris write well together. I was
not able to spot changes in authorial style through the book, which shows that these two
are able to seamlessly pass the pen from one to the other without disrupting the narrative
Phoenix Rising is a fun read and I look forward to the next
volume in the adventures of Books and Braun.