I have gone on the record twice as being a big fan of the work of Michael J. Martinez. I have read all three of his previous books from his Daedalus trilogy, and I loved the latter two enough to rave about them on the blog. In the third one, he was kind enough to mention me in the afterword. I’ve never met the guy, but we interact occasionally on Twitter. He is my favorite current, working adventure writer. I have no idea if he’s noticed my books or not.
Well, one way or the other, I lucked into an advance copy of the first book of his new series. The book is called MJ-12: INCEPTION, and the series is just called Majestic-12.
The Daedalus books were about… well, quite a lot of things, actually. Dimension-hopping hard-sci-fi steampunk space galleons with aliens on Venus and ancient magic affecting the real world. They were, uh, a bit hard to categorize, but what was clear about the entire series was that Martinez had a huge amount of fun writing them, particularly in the last installment of the series.
MJ-12: INCEPTION is a very, very, very different series from the Daedalus books. So much so, in fact, that were it not for his love of genrebending (or, perhaps, hatred of the idea of genre) bleeding through, I’d not have been able to guess that the books were by the same person. That said, I can find out quickly if you are interested in reading the book by asking a very short question: How do you feel about Cold War superheroes?
Okay. You just told yourself whether you should read this book or not. And if I have any influence, you should. MJ-12: INCEPTION isn’t as madcap or as breathtakingly original as the previous series, but it’s a convincing period piece set at the very beginning of the Cold War, right after the end of World War II. Harry Truman is a character, as is large chunks of his Cabinet, and if Martinez played fast and loose with any historical events other than a couple of obvious ones they got past me. It’s not as fun as his previous series but I’m not sure that’s a criticism, as “Cold War thriller” isn’t necessarily a genre I need to be a lot of fun. It is, instead, a solid espionage story that links the emergence of superpowered people, known as Variants, to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings (well, Hiroshima, specifically) and then imagines what might happen if the United States and the Russians both had access to an expanding pool of metahumans. Along the way we get a cool look at mid-1940s tradecraft and a bit of Bond-level gadgetry.
It’s not the Martinez I’m used to, but I’ve pre-ordered the hardcover despite getting the book for free. The rest of you can have it on September 6. I highly recommend it.