Stephen Hunt‘s Secrets of the Fire Sea is a mash up of a Dan Brownesque thriller, steampunk and adventure. I don wonder if there is a little Jules Verne in there as well. Hunt continues mashing up genres in the same way of the New Weird authors or Charles Stross, extending the conversation through updating the language used for the submarines (referred to as ‘u-boats’). I’ve been slightly out of the loop on his recent books so I’ve been catching up with his writing (earlier podcast and review for Court of the Air).
Hannah Conquest, an orphan, is in the care of the archbishop, Alice Grey, until the archbishop is murdered. As she looks into the reasons why, she stumbles across a steganographic code in paintings which hint at an algorithm which allows the user to become a god. Setting out across the fire sea with a rag tag crew, she discovers the secret behind her parents disappearance whilst becoming involved in the politics and history of the island she has lived on.
Hunt delivers read which is thrilling and is aware of the genre’s short comings and clunkiness. His own fannishness comes through and he delivers a fine mash-up. What it does remind me of though is the ease that it might be to use New Weird as a hook to try and describe the book. I’m not entirely sure the tag is useful here (and I’m sort of coming to the conclusion that the term only had a very short and specific life) but it is part of the freedom in genre that seemed to follow it. I’m not sure that there is subversion here but fun instead.
At some point, I really ought to sit down and properly catch up with his writing and as such it has been a joy coming back to him.
Secrets of the Fire Sea (Voyager, £7.99, 97800072689660, pb)