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Scarlet Traces: The Great Game

Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2007
By: Stephen Holland

by Ian Edginton & D'Israeli
Publisher: Dark Horse

British sci-fi through and through, with more than a nod to Frank Hampson's Dan Dare, of course. Mr. D'Israeli has excelled himself: there's an enormous weight on the aircraft and detail in the smallest of panels, and that semi-futurist cityscape comes with a vast sense of space and a majestic sense of light - and you wait until you get up to Mars. Fans of HEART OF EMPIRE or MINISTRY OF SPACE are also going to get a kick out of this alternate history in which Britain has retained the power it lost with its empire and made leaps in technology before its time, in this instance by reverse engineering the spoils from the thwarted Martian Invasion (see WAR OF THE WORLDS and the previous SCARLET TRACES series, both out as hardcovers @ 9-99, though not necessary to read before this). In retaliation Britain has taken the fight to Mars with Field Marshall Montgomery in charge, but after 40 years of futile fighting, with national and international opinion set dead against them, things are growing dirtier.

Abyssian Emperor Haile Selassie, Secretary General of The League Of Nations, comes out with a speech astonishingly similar to Kofi Annan's condemning Israel; Canada, New Zealand and Australia are all set to secede from The Commonwealth; and you just know we're in trouble if Sir Oswald bloody Mosley is Home Secretary. So you can kiss freedom of the press good-bye, and you can be equally sure there'll the thuggish boot boys to beat out insubordination should anyone get too close to the truth of what's happening on the red planet. Photojournalist Charlotte Hemming is determined to have a go, in spite of the odds, and after a treacherous journey finds evidence of a civilisation far older than their enemies, the reason that no one is coming home, and Earth's Final Solution to its problem. It's all very slick, with winks here and there (an ancient mural depicts Dr. Who's Silurians and Sea Devils as the contemporary, dominant species on Earth!), and Edginton fills his news reports with all manner of sly contemporary references before things turn very, very brutal...

"In the East End of London, Scotland Yard's Special Branch and the Metropolitan police raided a house in Sydney Street where Scottish seditionists "The People's Caledonian Militia" had established a hideout. After a heated gun battle, many of the insurgents took their own lives rather than face capture. However, it is suspected that several escaped in the confusion. Detective Inspector Craven of Special Branch anticipates their immediate arrest but warns that if you should see any individuals with a Scots or Northern appearance, do not approach them, but dial 999 immediately."

Now that's what I call satire.



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