By R. W. W. Greene
Space is for the few. You may have been trained as a professional astronaut and pushed the boundaries of science. Maybe you are a geek done good and decided to spend your billions on the vanity project of commercial space travel. Maybe, just maybe, you are a celeb or competition winner who won the chance to take a flight, the only downside being you must sit next to the said geek done good. Even with more and more people going into space, it is still the relative few. In R W W Greene’s Mercury Rising Earth is at war and we need soldiers. Anyone willing to spend ten years in space and have their bones turn brittle. People like Brooklyn, a man who faces decades in jail or ten years in space.
Brooklyn is an ordinary bloke from New York. Not that ordinary as he would rather deal in the shadier sides of the city than get a job. One well paid job seems simple, find some tapes, and deliver them. It all goes very wrong when someone dies, and Brooklyn’s prints are all over the crime scene. His choice is to go to prison or take a ride to the moon. In this mid-20th century America, the world is at war with the enigmatic creatures of Mercury. Brooklyn’s decision will change his life forever and may just pave the way to saving the planet.
Mercury is a joy of a book to read as it does so many things effortlessly. Writing pulp fiction seems simple, but to do it well is not. The same goes for alternative history, but Greene writes a wonderful slice of pulp sci fi and you never feel drowned out by the differences this alternative world has to our own. There is a boy’s own feel to the story in places. The setting of America during the Cold War makes you think of ray guns and B Movies. These are both present in the book, but there is also an edge. That being the character of Brooklyn.
This is one flawed protagonist. Brooklyn will look for the easy path in life, be that in crime or getting a job in the military with the lowest element of risk. He is not a hero, but the adventure in Mercury gives him little choice. The book is written in parts and spans several decades. There are gaps in Brooklyn’s life that pushes the action faster and gives the book a feel of several vignettes, rather than one continuous whole. I like this as the reader gets a chance to visit so much of Greene’s imagination from New York life to a genuine feeling training camp, moon work and a mysterious location deep underground.
Mercury is not a book that is afraid to move on with the story. It does not become bogged down in once place too long. The one thread through all this is Brooklyn. He matures and becomes a better man, but he will never be fully good. The alternative history is done to perfection. There are no pages of exposition, but instead a sense of time and place is weaved into the characters and their attitudes. Brooklyn feels like a chancer from the late 60s/early 70s, just the way that the characters interact with one another speaks of Cold War tension or race relations.
I love science fiction that is fun, and Mercury Rising is one of the best rides that I have been on. The ideas come thick and fast, all wrapped up in a perfectly pulpy alternative history woolly jumper. There are so many great ideas contained in the book, but Greene never wastes time dwelling on them, instead the author is intent on entertaining the reader and moving the story on. If all stories were as entertaining as this, my face would freeze into a rictus grin as I could not stop smiling as I read it.
Written on 9th May 2022 by Sam Tyler .