Book: Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris’ ‘Phoenix Rising’ – . “My ample bosom broke my fall.”

‘Phoenix Rising’ is book 1 in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series – the name of the series sounded rather interesting and was the primary reason for my purchase of the book.

The cover very nearly put me off, I am aware that corsets are a prominent feature in popular interpretations of steampunk- they seem to feature more than the technology, however it has never been thrust in my face so much before.

phoenix rising - ministry of peculiar occurances (cover photo from somewhere on the internet)

I haven’t read a great deal of steampunk or alternative history, but I know what makes a good book – interesting and well-structured plot, believable character interaction and development, sensible (if not clever) dialogue… the usual.

The plot can be summed up a two people are thrown together and after initial difficulties they work together to stop a nefarious plot that threatens all of England.

There is very little actual steampunk present in the book – I do not count a bullet-proof corset as a gadget, gizmo or invention. The villains were horribly stereotyped as stiff-upper lipped bad eggs.

If there had been a steam train in the books (which would have been nice) then they would have been simultaneously planting dynamite to blow up the tracks and tying the female lead to the same tracks!

Perhaps alarm bells should have rung when the muscle is a lady called Eliza D. Braun and the brains is Wellington Books – this is rather labouring their respective purpose in the book to the point of silliness.

Books was the more interesting of the two character, he at least seemed to have a backstory, Braun was headstrong to the point of stupidity and the book kept going on about her being this liberated female but she was rather two-dimensional action character with boobs.

Big Dog robot (Photo from bostondynamics – Big Dog is fantastic)

Personally the plot didn’t feel like it had an overall point or even joined together terribly well, it wouldn’t surprise me if the whole book was a bet to see how many set pieces could be crammed into one book with little to join them up.

There was the escape from the castle, the telling off and punishment duty, the getting to know the new partner, seeing/mourning the old partner, finding the clues on the old case, infiltrating the bad guys, shagging the bad guys, oh-no-the-bad-guys-are-onto-us, seeing the dastardly evil master plan, stopping dastardly master plan, the end.

I got rather bored really, which was a shame as at least one part of the dastardly master plan would have been rather interesting if it had been explored properly (SPOILER) – I mean who wouldn’t love to read about London being invaded by robots made out of squishy human bits?

It seemed that some people much have liked it as there are a couple of sequels and some “tales of the archives” cash-in books. Personally it is not my cup of tea and my copy will be finding a new home.

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