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The Eccentric POV

Ares Express Ian McDonald

Ares Express Ian McDonald

Ares Express is the story of Sweetness Octave Glorious Honey-Bun Asiim Engineer 12th, daughter to an engineer in a caste-system society which lives on the massive fusion-powered steam locomotives of Mars. She loves the locomotives and longs to be her trains's next Engineer, but while women drive trains in other places, other societies, they don't in hers; instead, her family arranges for her a marriage to a galley-supervisor on another train. She runs away instead, and soon lands herself in the position of being the only person on in the world who can save reality as she knows it.

The world McDonald creates is a breathtaking riot of people and cultures, technology and magic, dire threats and unlikely salvation, where the impossible is perfectly normal and the dramas of home and family and dreams and duty intertwine harmoniously with those of a threatened apocalypse. The characters, too, are a wonder---unlikely and fantastic to us, but fitting seamlessly into this technological fantasy-realm: Uncle Neon, the man who was struck by lightning on the tracks and whose consciousness now resides in a signal beacon; Grandmother Taal, who can work miracles with magic, but only on brown things; Little Pretty One, the ghost of Sweetness Octave's dead twin sister who is . . . rather more than that; Devastation Harx, who seeks to destroy all mechanical entities on the planet and above it from a human-powered flying cathedral, and Sweetness Octave herself, who intended to save herself from a destiny someone else would force upon her, and ends up tasked with doing the same for her entire planet.

Reading this book is a delightful experience---an epic heroic fantasy story, a journey through a fascinating world, and, like a frantic high-speed flight on a runaway nuclear locomotive, a truly spectacular ride.

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3 Responses to “Train Truck”

  • Laura Anthony says:

  • Marquita Olson says:

    I enjoyed both this novel and the previous, "Desolation Road." The two major reasons are the eccentric characters and the exotic setting of a far-future terraformed Mars.

    The first reason for my enjoyment of this (so far) two book series, is the the strange and unusual characters. Most, if not all, of the characters has some eccentric trait that makes them outside the norm. Such traits include supernatural or magical talants, unusual outlooks, being part of a strange and exotic sub-culture, and most extreme of all, undergoing an actual physical transformation from human to inhuman. I especially liked the two main protagonists, one from each book, who turn out to be more unusual than it first appears. In each novel, the supposedly human protagonist goes in search of an powerful alien entity that went missing, only to find out that they were really, literally, searching for their own true selves!

    The second reason I like "Desolation Road" and "Ares Express," is the exotic far-future setting of a terraformed Mars. The various locations are depicted in wonderful and mystical detail. There is a great variety of settings including an underground city of Belledonna, the diamond-domed Grand Valley, the lush Forest of Chrys, along with the titled settings of Desolation Road and Ares Express.

    Because of these, and other reasons, I really hope the auther writes a third book in this weird and wonderfully exotic world.

  • Shawna Mathews says:

    Ares Express is the story of Sweetness Octave Glorious Honey-Bun Asiim Engineer 12th, daughter to an engineer in a caste-system society which lives on the massive fusion-powered steam locomotives of Mars. She loves the locomotives and longs to be her trains's next Engineer, but while women drive trains in other places, other societies, they don't in hers; instead, her family arranges for her a marriage to a galley-supervisor on another train. She runs away instead, and soon lands herself in the position of being the only person on in the world who can save reality as she knows it.

    The world McDonald creates is a breathtaking riot of people and cultures, technology and magic, dire threats and unlikely salvation, where the impossible is perfectly normal and the dramas of home and family and dreams and duty intertwine harmoniously with those of a threatened apocalypse. The characters, too, are a wonder---unlikely and fantastic to us, but fitting seamlessly into this technological fantasy-realm: Uncle Neon, the man who was struck by lightning on the tracks and whose consciousness now resides in a signal beacon; Grandmother Taal, who can work miracles with magic, but only on brown things; Little Pretty One, the ghost of Sweetness Octave's dead twin sister who is . . . rather more than that; Devastation Harx, who seeks to destroy all mechanical entities on the planet and above it from a human-powered flying cathedral, and Sweetness Octave herself, who intended to save herself from a destiny someone else would force upon her, and ends up tasked with doing the same for her entire planet.

    Reading this book is a delightful experience---an epic heroic fantasy story, a journey through a fascinating world, and, like a frantic high-speed flight on a runaway nuclear locomotive, a truly spectacular ride.

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