REVIEW: Agamemnon Frost and the Hollow Ships by Kim Knox
Dear Ms. Knox:
I’ll admit to being a touch confused and quite a bit thrown when I first started this latest tale in Agamemnon Frost’s steampunk world as told from the viewpoint of his sidekick, Mason. The deluge of unfamiliar phrases and concepts was, at first, amazingly disconcerting. As the novella progressed, however, everything became much clearer thanks to tight storytelling and compelling plot. Agamemnon Frost is an automata – half-human, half-machine – member of British society in 1819 Liverpool, England. Along with his valet, newly made automata, Mason, Frost must forward his work with Station X, a secret British organization, to thwart an impending Martian invasion and save the Empire. Their tasks are made more difficult, however, by the fact that the automata are Martian inventions, ensuring that they must not only fight the Martians, but their forbidden desire for each other.
While a wonderful work of science fiction, the erotic romance aspect shines through with an organic, arousing simplicity. Neither genre overwhelms the other; in fact, they complement each other perfectly. Both are developed in parallel paths that intersect, allowing each to shine. The sexual tension that develops between Frost and Mason is organic, blended beautifully with a hint of darkness and a touch of slightly tongue in cheek dominance and submission. Mason is, by reason of his position as Frost’s valet and his place in the Martian hierarchy, forced to be submissive to Frost in public – yet the submission doesn’t necessarily carry through to all of their interactions. Quite a bit is left to the reader’s imagination, which makes for an absolutely delicious read.
There’s a strong resonance with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic Sherlock Holmes throughout the work, yet you put your own touches on the world, making it distinct and unique. One of the themes that jumped out at me quite a bit was your use of man versus environment. Mason, the more newly made automata, struggles greatly with the soot, decay and diminished air quality of an industrial area, frequently finding solace in the clean air contraptions built for the automata’s comfort. His gifts of enhanced strength, hearing and instincts are tempered by the irritation of little things we take for granted in everyday life – dust, for example. I don’t know about you, but dust merely makes me sneeze. To Mason, each piece of dust felt like razors ripping at his skin and throat.
Another thing that caught my attention was the fact that this wasn’t the ordinary steampunk. Other steampunk novels I’ve read tend to focus on the use of machinery to enhance humanity, either for better or worse. This one, however, posited the use of machinery by and from an alien context. The concept of man versus his alien self is both intriguing and disturbing – though disquieting in a good way. I never expected the story to be as thought provoking as it was, and I loved every second of it. Of course, I dare say I’m going to have a few nightmares about the things described, but that’s a small price to pay for such a wickedly written story. The descriptions of evil acts were so subtle that it didn’t even hit me until paragraphs later that they were utterly horrendous and monstrous. It’s not that they were candy coated, though; it was more that their implications were so subtle that it took the cumulative to bring it all in perspective.
I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that you tease the reader with the story, drawing it out into a page-turner with a mostly satisfying ending. It’s clear this isn’t the beginning of Agamemnon’s tale and, while that was an irritant that occasionally brought me out of the story; it wasn’t enough to have me putting it aside.
Thank you for an excellent read! B+