Not too long ago I reviewed Mat MaCall’s The Dandelion Farmer. I was I think now perhaps a little too gushing in my praise of the novel, the first of a trilogy of which the second The Hourglass Sea is the subject of this review.
The problem with the review of The Dandelion Farmer (the short version posted on amazon is above, the long version from the blog is here.) is very simple. Once you have said something is ‘a tour-de-force’ written with ‘mastery’ and ‘a wonderful read’ it leaves you with no where to go when you discover to your chagrin the sequel is even better…
If there was one flaw in the first book it was a problem inherent with the style in which the novels are written, because it is all in the form of excerpts form diary, official reports, memoirs, the overlap between different POV characters views of events occasionally led to you viewing one set of events several times, without necessary adding a great deal to the story. While I addressed this to an extent in my long review here, it wasn’t a major flaw. There was just one or two places where it was a tad over done. As flaws go however its was a minor one, and one that did not detract form the splendour of the novel. It just could have been even better, but I felt at the time that was a little like saying a masterpiece like the Mona Lisa could have been even better if only Leonardo had made her smile even more enigmatic… Which is to say you can not improve on a master piece it is already a master piece, and even the flaws are part of what make it so…
Then I read The Hourglass Sea.
Everything I loved about The Dandelion Farmer is in here and more. The Characters evolve, the steampunk, Victorian era, colonial mars grows in your imagination, the deeper plot becomes, well deeper more complex, strange and engrossing. The epic quality to it all, the grand scale, the intricate details of character and place. It’s all there.
Not to mention the most fascinating, and my favourite, characters from the first book, Aelita the catholic raised native Martian, and Adam Franklin the man who isn’t, are very much centre stage once more, driving the narrative with their own portions of the story. Which is not to detract form the other characters who are all wonderfully realised creations in their own right.
The scope of these novels just expands, the second book taking you further into the history of Colonial Mars and mysteries that surround its former inhabitants. The scale is epic views through the microcosm of the individual, which make sit all the more engaging as a narrative. It’s engrossing and draws you further in as the story progresses, even more so than in the original novel.
What isn’t there are the minor flaw I choose to ignore in the first novel. While POV’s in the excerpts still over lap, as indeed they should, it has been kept to a minimum, allowing the greater narrative to flow more easily, and avoid those occasional bits in the first novel where they got a little stifled. Which as I say was the smallest of flaws in that first novel, even if I ignored it at the time due to how much I loved it. Every novel has flaws, 20’000 leagues under the sea has too many passages about fish, war of the worlds is dry to the point of arid at times, Wuthering Heights gets a tad flouncy around the edges. There is an Inuit Saga in the middle of Passing Place… Perfection in a masterpiece is a slightly more enigmatic smile than the most enigmatic smile ever known.
With The Hourglass Sea, Mat MaCall has managed to take his masterpiece and make the smile even more enigmatic…
Was I a little too gushing in my praise of the first novel, perhaps, but only when views with hindsight. The first book was a masterpiece, the second is just better still… I can not wait for the third