Future Earth uses special ethereal silk (from Mars) to power wood ocean going boats across the sky. The silk is running out and the ocean going boats with canvas are going to be the next big thing. OK.
AGAIN, the draw of the “future crumbling empire fixation” (FCEF) was so great that I picked up a copy of Bayley’s well, how should I phrase it — master(less)piece? A rather roguish boy raised in the taverns of future earth gets involved in a harebrained scheme to resurrect space travel. Take an Earth sky ship (with the special silk stuff) and fit it out for space travel to Mars to get more. Step in the ex-Pirate super tough I-will-hack-you-with-a-sword Captain Zhorga of the Wandering Queen.
Mars ends up being as crappy as earth and everyone who survived the journey (queue: alchemical Space SQUID WEAPONS) gets drafted into hunting for an alchemical text in a plot to get someone in an impenetrable aegis fort made by an alien who lives in something like a vat of talk powder and eventually when the king comes and the motley assembly need to save the world…. You get the point that this story rambles in every cliché filled direction possible direction).
Oh there is one female “character” for two pages. The only other one I found was an indirect reference to a dwarf and a giant prostitute.
That said, Bayley enters some great territory with the debauchery, musical art, mud bath, and sin-filled Aegis (impenetrable) sub-plot but sadly its too little too late. The characters are empty and the evil enemies are emptier. That said some of the worlds are colorful and fun and Bayley knows enough alchemy mumbo-jumbo to make another interesting sub-plot. However, he forgets about his main characters and falls into the classic we-must-have-an-end-of-the-world scenario to make things interesting trap.
Hopefully Bayley’s other works are more coherent since I’ve heard him many times referred to as a lost great. All in all, this book was a terrible disappointment.