Evolution Expects, Jonathan Green

Review by Paul W. Smith

The latest in the alternative Earth Pax Britannia series, Evolution Expects takes us into a London where the population is under threat of a startling metamorphosis, a giant robot and masked vigilante, giving Jonathan Green further opportunity to expand on the futuristic vision of Britain the series has built up to date. We’re entering a world where the British Empire is still going strong with Queen Victoria on the throne for 150 years, retaining the rusting remnants of the industrial age alongside technical advancements. This is an Empire that’s increasingly stagnating and Londinium Maximum remains under an almost permanent toxic smog. Heroes and villains lurk amongst its vermin-infested streets.

Evolution Expects reintroduces Ulysses Quicksilver the dandified detective who’s is learning to cope with his newly transplanted ape’s arm, and Thomas Sanctuary, who’s now taken on the role of a masked jet-propelled vigilante dubbed Spring-Heel Jack. Their paths cross as they investigate the mysterious sighting of the Golem from Jewish myth and the shocking transformations that have befallen inmates in the Bedlam asylum, ordinary people that are now more insect than human. However, it becomes a race against time to solve the mystery before Prime Minister Devlin Valentine launches the Jupiter Station as an attempt to increase his popularity by cleaning up the city’s atmosphere. But already they have their hands full with gang warfare in the East End, and the alleged sighting of an old enemy, masterminding his latest scheme for domination.

This is a thoughtfully inventive tale where Jonathan Green relishes mixing Victorian Gothic with Sci-Fi adventure. His Londinium is a city which bears some semblance to our own reality but where scientific progress runs parallel with the over-extended trappings of the Victorian age. Giant robots and flying heroes co-exist alongside the opium gangs of Limehouse and the lunatics of Bedlam. There are nods to H.G. Wells and Conan Doyle, as well as to Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Bryan Talbot’s Luther Arkwright. Liberally sprinkled with dramatic set pieces and colourfully eccentric characters, Evolution Expects proves to be an entertaining read, with its own in-built rewards for readers of the whole Pax Britannia series to date, producing what amounts to an ongoing TV series in book form.

This volume also includes the satisfying short novella “Conqueror Worm”. Set in 1797, it features the female secret agent, Cassandra Tyrrell, who rescues Sir George Sackville from highwaymen only to become embroiled in his family’s legend of the deadly Lambton Worm.

Publisher: Abaddon Books (rrp £6.99, paperback) (Aug 2009)