Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Phoenix Rising Phoenix Rising
by Pip Ballantine And Tee Morris

Supplied for review by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed By: Simon Litten

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 Majesty’s 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 who’s 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 flow.

Phoenix Rising is a fun read and I look forward to the next volume in the adventures of Books and Braun.

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