A “mashup” is where you take two things that seem totally unrelated and blend them into a seamless whole. The term doesn’t imply it but the blending has to seem natural to the point where the two things you’re working with almost look like they were always meant to go together. The term seems to have originated in contemporary music, where homages to previous musicians or blendings of styles seem much more common. But that doesn’t mean it can’t apply to other things.
The Daedalus Incident, by Michael J. Martinez is a great example. It takes fairly hard scifi and smashes it together with alternate history and low fantasy to get a story that is unique and charming.
We start on the venerable planet of Mars, where mining operations are interrupted by an unexpected and theoretically impossible earthquake. (Yes, technically it should be a marsquake but apparently that’s not a word.) As the multinational space command overseeing things there struggles to find a good explanation it quickly becomes apparent things are getting worse.
Meanwhile, Lt. Thomas Weatherby of the British Royal Navy is bound for Mercury. In the late 1700s. In a sailing ship equally at home on the sea or in the sky. And the story hasn’t even gotten weird yet.
The Daedalus Incident is everything you ever wanted if you’re into scifi with an X-Files twist. It’s got everything, from ancient alien astronauts to weird alchemy and beyond. The science here is pretty solid, to the extent it goes (and that may not be as far as you think) but more than that it takes pains to be believable enough to keep us from questioning it without demanding too much of us. There’s a very real element of believability to the nature of Weatherby’s ships – all the old-fashioned nautical terms are clearly well researched and consistent and the made up stuff is blended in seamlessly.
That said, if you’re one of those people who cannot stand, for whatever reason, anything that smacks of handwaving in your scifi this is not the story for you. (Honestly, I’m not sure how you can stand reading scifi at all.) Because frankly there’s a lot here that’s vulnerable to fridge logic and is liable to leave you with an upset stomach after you try and digest it. You’re better off leaving it on the shelf and admiring the pretty colors, because not everyone can handle that.
The plot here is suitably complex – there’s stuff going on in both narrative threads and a good pace and points of view are juggled to keep you interested in what happens next. Suspense is maintained quite well – I figured out who the mole in the ranks of the good guys was about half way through but I was still interested in how it would play out and there are enough other plot threads at work to keep you interested even if you figure it out, too.
All in all, this story is great fun and shows a creativity sadly lacking in a lot of politically or conspiracy oriented scifi these days. There’s a total of three books planned, the second of which is already out, and I plan to chase them all down. It’s probably worth your time, too.