A scientific romance like they used to make
Eric Brown doesn’t do hard SF. He’s been carving a niche for himself as the modern John Wyndham, writing tales of middle-class Englishmen (even when they’re in the far future or deep space, they still feel like middle-class Englishmen) bearing up under out-of-this-world circumstances. The Kings Of Eternity , however, has more of an Edgar Rice Burroughs or HG Wells feel. It’s clearly deliberate.
Alternating chapters concentrate on a paranoid writer on a Greek Island in 1999, convinced the alien lizards are out to get him, and a paranoid writer in the ‘30s (and onwards) who discovers, along with his chums, a portal to another world, which changes all their lives. This second plot strand is told as a faux journal, and it’s here that Brown has fun aping the stiff-upper-lipped heroes of early 20th century scientific romances. It also means he can get away with some glorious, self-consciously cheesy sci-fi terminology.
But the book is no mere piece of homage lampoonery. This is as much a romance romance as a scientific one, written with real charm, told in a story that twists in intriguing ways to close the loop between the past and (nearly) present.
The main problem is that it all seems a little too lightweight. Not just in terms of the SF – its musings on life and death and the value of art also feel a little superficial. But it remains a ripping yarn, with genuine heart.