Cover Image: Mercury Rising

Mercury Rising

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Member Reviews

Thanks very much for the opportunity to read and review! Unfortunately, this book wasn’t for me. This isn’t a knock on the author - Jet’s story in the first 10% would have made a great sci fi action movie - but a reflection of my tastes when it comes to characters. I can see the potential, but wasn’t in the mood to read a book about a bunch of blokes being all buddy-buddy.

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While I really liked the alternate history part of this book and seeing that differences it presented, I otherwise had a lot of trouble getting into the story. I was far more interested in the initial fight and would have liked to see more on that side of things rather than the 1970s. While things improved towards the end, it took too long to get my interest back.

Note: arc provided by the publisher via netgalley in exchange for honest review

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The story begins in an alternate Earth, in 1957, and astronauts from the US and Russia scramble to meet an alien attack in space, launched from the innermost planets. In this alternate world, the space race has far outstripped ours, and with the powerful Oppenheimer drives, humans are no longer confined to Earth.

The attack is seemingly thwarted; though we find out later that Cleveland was destroyed when we meet Brooklyn Lamontagne in 1975. He's a lazy ne’er-do-well, always looking to his next money-making scheme. Brooklyn eventually makes one bad decision too many (involving some weird eight-track tapes and a murder), and ends up in jail. When given the chance, he joins the UN's Earth defense (EOF).

After successfully making it through training, he ends up on the moon, maintaining computer software and hardware (e.g., punch cards, cassette tapes, wiring, and clunky big machines). He’s happy enough, as he’s not in dangerous situations, and he’s running a black market operation selling high quality vodka that he’s made.

Somehow, despite all his efforts, Brooklyn ends up on a ship, then kidnapped to a really odd place, where he begins to find out there’s much more going on with the aliens and humans’ place in the solar system than he ever wanted to. And that he’s developed some unusual abilities as a result of an unsanctioned experiment.

R.W.W. Greene's alternate past Earth is such a fascinating mix of high tech such as space flight, computers, and communication between space and Earth, mixed with such things as eight-track tapes and horrible cars like the Pacer.

This is such a fun melding of Golden Age alien invasion stories with the story of a guy who just wants to make sure his mother can live comfortably, and he has enough good vodka to drink. For all his aversion to adventure, Brooklyn keeps getting dragged into situations that call on him to do more, and be more.

It's also a bit of a commentary on humanity, where, despite huge, terrible danger threatening all of the planet, there will be goofs spouting conspiracy theories about aliens, hippies just floating through life, and people not pulling together or supporting each other.

I enjoyed this book a lot, and liked Brooklyn, forever the reluctant hero but finding he's capable of more, and even doing it, sometimes. Can't wait to see where Greene takes Brooklyn next.

Thank you to Netgalley and to Angry Robot for this ARC in exchange for my review.

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tonally and temporally jumbled up but. it was ok. it works in spite of it but takes a bit too long to get started

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Mercury Rising really comes into its own in the last third of the book - which unfortunately leaves the first two-thirds seeming quite unsatisfactory. I understand the need to show the realities (albeit in an alternate timeline) of the 1970s setting, however there are ways to show this without sinking to that era's level. In these initial sections as well, there are no female characters who are more than the vaguest paper cutout.
However, once the book hits its stride, the premise is really interesting. The characters and writing style seem more engaging for this added layer. Although as the plots unfurls, it becomes more obvious that this is the start of a series - and some pacing issues result - I'm overall really keen to see how this continues to play out. As the world involved widens, there's also the opportunity for some more well fleshed-out characters.
At times disappointing, but all in all an intriguing start.

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Earth, 1975 ... but with a different history than the one we currently know. It's been 25 years since man first walked on the moon, and 18 years since a space fleet stopped an alien invasion.

Enter Brooklyn Lamontagne. A 20-something unskilled dude floundering through life. To avoid a prison sentence for a stupid crime of 8-track tape theft that went wrong and left one man dead, Brooklyn agrees to join the EOF (Extra-Orbital Forces) for a ten year stint. Little does he know what he's in for. From bootcamp in Texas to special training in the Arctic, to the moon for computer work, to deep space on a ship where the entire crew are gay men, to being a pin-cushion for a mad-scientist doctor experimenting on expendable men, to being shot and presumed and left for dead in space, to being prisoner and sent to work in a camp on Mercury.

It is there, on Mercury, that Brooklyn learns about the aliens who invaded decades earlier and, more importantly, of potential plans for a new invasion. But what can he do, as a prisoner in a place so remote that even fully-loaded weapons are cut into scrap metal because there is no one to use a weapon against.

This was solid, wall-to-wall action, a thrilling space opera - perfect for readers who don't want to spend too much time getting reflective or deeply into relationship building.

We get just enough of Brooklyn's back story to recognize that he's on a down-ward spiral and he's going to be that character who doesn't have much to lose, making his choices for action that much simpler to make. And in this, author R.W.W. Greene doesn't disappoint. Brooklyn 'grows up' through the course of the book and he's kind of fun to follow. And because Greene keeps the action moving so rapidly, we never really get the chance to sit back and reflect, which is probably good because we'd probably realize how thin the plot actually is.

The end comes about leaving waaaaay too many questions unanswered. In fact, the last quarter of the book seems to be building to something and just as we get there, the book comes to end. Meaning this is the first in a series and by itself an incomplete book. I've noticed some people writing that this works as a stand-alone, but I disagree, given how many questions remain unanswered.

Looking for a good book? Mercury Rising by R.W.W. Greene is an exciting space opera but the plot points remain unresolved at the close of the book, which is too bad. The writing itself would have me wanting to read the next volume, I didn't need an incomplete book to try to lure me to the next volume.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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I liked his first book that I read, The Light Years, but this one felt like there wasn't much 'oomph' behind it. Whether that's from the author or the publisher, I don't know, but it isn't one that will stick with me.

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I found this book to be too long, there were some parts that felt over complicated, and it eventually failed to keep my interest to the very end.

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MERCURY RISING has an almost perfect opening chapter, a tight little piece of writing that could be a short story in itself, that immediately draws in the reader. A really intelligent and exciting alternate history, one in which Kennedy was never killed, man touched touched down on the moon in the early 50s, and, oh yeah, Earth experienced and repelled an alien invasion. There's a lot of really interesting worldbuilding, and really insightful and interesting character development and dynamics. Not to be missed.

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Alternative history with retro high tech space travel

I loved this book and I especially loved to find out it was the first book in a trilogy.

This is a tale of an alternative history - one in which JFK wasn't killed and in which space travel developed a heck of a lot sooner (like in the 1940s).

The story takes place in the 1970s but a skewed 1970s. A lot of the music is the same but people are traveling all over space and there are aliens out there.

The story starts in NYC with Brooklyn Lamontagne who, after being discovered at a crime scene, is given a choice - prison or the Extra-Orbital Forces for ten years. So EOF it is.

I loved Brooklyn's character. I loved the storyline. I loved the craziness with the alternative history and the 1970s, which I lived through. I am looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.

I highly recommend this quirky sci fi romp.

I received this book from Angry Robot Books through Net Galley in the hopes that I would read it and leave an unbiased review.

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I took me a while to get a beed on Mercury Rising - which is very much on purpose from Greene. It starts with a ludicrous space battle, which we latterly discover to be the film version of an actual supposed space battle - Earth against the aliens back in 1957 where Jet Carson died saving the world. Yep, that's right, Jet Carson. And yes 1957. This is alt universe space opera, but its also alt-universe pulp - it reads, and want to read, like stuff out of Amazing Science Fiction from the fifties. At least it wants to up to a point, because the main storyline, which start in New York in 1975, is also a touch Blackspoitation. The lead character is called Brooklyn after all, this is a book which isn't doing subtlety on the surface. Under the surface, that's a different matter.

Mercury Rising romps through ideas and tropes like a kaiju stomping Tokyo. And yet from fitting up its hero, to making him a space jockey, to its tales of space station treachery to an ultimate encounter with alien intelligence, it is always about a Black experience in a genre that hasn't always been generous to that demographic. Now part of this is possible due to its alternate history status, but isn't really that interested in "what if aliens attacked us - would we be less racist". Rather it imagines its reality to be not that dissimilar structurally to ours, and its everyman character thrust into a world he didn't make is a Black New Yorker.

That all makes it sound extremely worthy, but fundamentally Greene is having a lot of fun playing in the sci-fi pulp sandbox.From his lone secret agent, to the underground caverns of Venus, the book is as relentlessly entertaining as it is scientific hokum. That's fine, it is part of its pulp pastiche and something the book allows you to swing with pretty quickly (it after-all has its own fiction within a fiction to poke fun at). The end is left open for a sequel which I not convinced it needs, but I found Mercury Rising to be a consistently entertaining and original read and with enough read world grit it is day-glo pulp satire too.

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I loved this book. I loved the retrò atmosphere, the pop references, the mix of classic and contemporary sci-fi with alternate history.
I love these things and I loved the well developed and interesting characters. It was great to read about the changes in Brooklyng and how he evolves from being someone who's involved in a crime to a person who is facing something bigger than him.
The first chapter in this story could have been written by Heinlein: the hero and the fight could be in some of his book. And I think the author pays homage to Heinlein in other parts of the story or maybe it's just my impression.
It's one of the most original sci-fi book I read in these years. I knew that the author is a talented storyteller but I think this is his best work so far.
I was fascinated by this parallel universe where humans settled on the Moon and other planets but the computer are those of the 70s. Where there's a collaboration between the most powerful countries and Kennedy never dies.
And i liked the references to music and pop culture.
I think this is something new and classic in the sci-fi world and hope a lot of people will love it.
I can't wait to read the next book by this author, this one is strongly recommended.
Many thanks to Angry Robots and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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RWW Greene continues to refuse to be boxed into one small corner of SF; Mercury Rising is markedly different from his other novels, but let that be in no way a deterrent. Blending more traditional SF (think Heinlen, Burroughs and Clarke) into alternate history, Greene has written a fantastic novel full of worldbuilding, humor, examination of humanity and more. The story unfolds with an introductory scene that sets the stage, and follows with the main protagonist's experiences in the world resulting from that first scene. Throughout the novel, Greene's hints and drops at changes to that timeline from ours can be both poignant and humorous, as the repercussions ripple through 70s culture and society. I've been a voracious reader of anything Greene puts out since The Light Years, and if he continues to craft at this level, I will continue until he stops writing.

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I really, really wanted to like this book, but I just found the language and the authors writing style really grated on me. I found it unnecessarily crude in parts & I really struggled to like the MC. The Sci-Fi parts were both too simple and over complicated. The story does pick up after the first 15% or so, but I still found my interest flagging and I ended up DNF'ing at around 25%.

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Mercury Rising was such a unique reading experience, I hardly know how to start this review. I suppose I will take you through my journey while reading it, as there were a few distinct parts. I was enthralled from the start, where we meet a astronaut captain in what is clearly an alternate timeline. He's been sent up this particular time because there seems to be a threat from... well, who knows, right? It's tense and exciting and then...

We meet our main character, who is not at all an astronaut hero. His name is Brooklyn, and he's kind of a mess. The antithesis of the aforementioned astronaut hero, if you will. And I won't lie, I found it a little jarring, perhaps even underwhelming at first. At first, I said, no worries! Because while I will say there were a few chapters early on where I was unsure if I'd be digging this story after all, that quickly vanished. All of a sudden, I found myself so completely immersed in the whole story that I lost track of time. I don't know when, where, or how the change occurred, but one minute I was mildly interested, and the next I had straight up forgotten I had other stuff to do in actual life.

This is my second R.W.W. Greene book, and wow, can he pull me into a story! Like Twenty Five to Life, this story had me wholly invested in the world and characters. The world itself is beyond compelling- imagine, if you will, that Kennedy was never killed, that the space race was on steroids, and that we as a society were just so much more technologically advanced. Also, aliens. Obviously we are going to be interested in that world, yeah? I sure was! There are a lot of very cool space shenanigans that occur during the story too, that I am leaving vague so you will have the delight of experiencing them for yourselves.

Now, the characters. At first, like me, you may think Brooklyn is a real letdown after Jet Carson, SpaceHero™. And I mean, I guess he kind of is at that point in his life. But we can't all come out of the wombs as heroes, right? And frankly, I think Brooklyn's journey ends up being far more satisfying because of how he started out, not in spite of it. There is a great cast of secondary characters to love as well, but to tell you about virtually any of them would give away plot points that I don't want to, so. Just read the thing, yeah?

As I got to the end of the book, I was a bit worried- how exactly are we going to wrap everything up, there is so much to explore in this world! Well, good news on that front, this is not supposed to be a standalone! I am thrilled, because this world is bananas, in the best possible way. I love the way the author is able to deliver smart commentary about past and current events in so many ways, and I can't wait for more!

Bottom Line: Mercury Rising managed to be so many things at once: clever, heartfelt, entertaining, and so, so enjoyable. I cannot wait to dive back into this world and see what else it has to offer!

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The nitty-gritty: Low-tech and futuristic space travel combine in surprising ways in this entertaining series opener.

Last year I thoroughly enjoyed R.W.W. Greene’s Twenty-Five to Life, and so I jumped at the chance to read his latest book from Angry Robot. Mercury Rising is just as compelling but in a different way. Where Twenty-Five to Life focuses on characters who still live on Earth, Mercury Rising is set mostly in space and takes place in the past—the 1970s—although this is not our past, but rather a world where Kennedy wasn’t shot and space travel has made great strides as early as the 1950s. I absolutely loved the unusual mix of retro-technology, space travel and alien invasion, and the casual "hippie" lifestyle of the characters made for an interesting contrast.

In this alternate version of the U.S., the invention of the Oppenheimer Nuclear Engine in 1945 has allowed for an accelerated space program. Decades later in 1961, a crew of U.S. and Russian astronauts die trying to stop an alien invasion. From this first encounter, other disastrous attacks have happened on U.S. soil, including the destruction of the city of Cleveland in 1972 by an asteroid. These events have had a catastrophic effect on the economy, and many people have left Earth for colonies on the Moon and Mars.

The story begins in New York and follows a man named Brooklyn Lamontagne, who is drifting through life without much purpose. That is until he agrees to help a friend steal some 8-track tapes and things go horribly wrong. Brooklyn’s friend David winds up dead, and Brooklyn is arrested as a suspect. Even though he didn’t commit the murder, things don’t look good for him, so to avoid going to prison, Brooklyn agrees to join the EOF—the Extra-Orbital Forces—for a ten year term of service.

And so Brooklyn’s adventures in space begin, first with a “boot camp” in Texas followed by a rigorous and dangerous training stint in the Arctic. To his surprise, Brooklyn passes everything with flying colors and is sent to the Moon to work as a computer expert, but later a new assignment takes him deeper into space, where he learns some shocking truths about the aliens. When a new threat emerges, Brooklyn is called upon to help stop it—the most important assignment of his life.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, plot driven story, you might want to look elsewhere, but don’t let that stop you from reading this book. Yes, the pace is a bit meandering, and Brooklyn’s journey has many stops along the way. But I was so engrossed in each part of that journey and fascinated by Greene’s unique world-building that the slow pace didn’t bother me at all. Brooklyn is front and center throughout, and along the way he meets new people who add lots of nice layers to the story. He mostly takes things in stride, agreeing to new assignments without complaint, making friends wherever he goes, willing to jump into dangerous situations at the drop of a hat. I enjoyed his casual view of the world and his optimistic attitude. To be honest, it was refreshing to run into a character who isn’t dark and angsty.

Greene’s world-building was refreshing as well. At first I didn’t know what to make of the odd combination of 1970s technology and futuristic space travel. You have people living on the moon and space ships traveling to Mars and Venus, but computers are stuck in the 60s and 70s and people still listen to music on 8-track tapes. But this combo really worked, and it was one of my favorite parts of the book. And I loved the references to music. Brooklyn and his friends listen to K.C. & the Sunshine Band and other bands and musicians from the era, and I could almost hear a soundtrack playing along as I was reading. Greene captures the political sensibility of the 1970s with real life people from history, and even imagines a world where conspiracy theories are alive and well, including one where Nixon instigated the attack on Cleveland in order to be reelected. It was all a lot of fun, and Greene gives his readers plenty of food for thought.

And while the story takes its time getting to wherever it’s going, at about the sixty-percent mark Greene throws in a very cool twist and the pace and tension pick up considerably. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that Brooklyn finds himself in yet another new location and meets one of my favorite characters in the story, a woman named Andy. Andy is the key to everything that follows, and I absolutely loved the relationship that develops between the two. This won’t make sense unless you read the book, but they were pretty adorable together! Greene even ties up some loose ends by circling back to the stolen tapes and the murder at the beginning of the story. It’s at this point that the author introduces some fascinating concepts about the origins of the human race and how we ended up on Earth—and who may have been there before us. Some of his ideas were simply mind boggling, and days after finishing the book, those ideas are still rattling around in my head.

The satisfying ending harkens back to an earlier plot point where Brooklyn meets a rather sketchy doctor aboard one of his ships, a doctor with a nefarious agenda, and I thought it was a great way to wrap things up. This is never explained, but I suspect it will be in the sequel. Because yes, I was thrilled to discover that Mercury Rising is the first book in a trilogy.

R.W.W. Green continues to surprise me, and he’s undoubtedly one of the most unique writers working in the SFF field today, at least in my humble opinion. Readers looking for something different in science fiction need look no further. Grab this book as soon as you can!

Big thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.

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I ended up loving this book. I didn't really have many expectations going into it, but I was immediately sucked into this brilliant alternate history where the space race went into overdrive and radically changed the technology and timeline of the mid twentieth century. It was fascinating and a bit weird to read the language and pop culture of that time period alongside the spaceships and colonization of the moon and Mars. The book tackled a lot of important themes/ideas, including environmentalism, homophobia, racism, globalism, mental health, and economic inequality to name a few, but it did so in ways that were entertaining and felt true to the overall story being told. There were also plenty of great sci-fi elements sprinkled throughout with an increasing emphasis on those aspects as the story played out, and I loved the way it all came together in the end to show that the aliens and their conflicts were always driving the story, even during the points of the book where they weren't quite as obvious. My favorite thing about the book, though, was the main character, Brooklyn. He was such a relatable character in so many ways, and his growth was immense. I love stories with flawed, reluctant heroes, and Brook fit that mold really well. A great deal of this book was spent building up his character before diving head first into all the sci-fi craziness, and I appreciated the decisions Brook made at the end even more because of it. Overall, this was a fascinating story with a great balance of plot and character focus. If you like sci-fi or alternate history stories (or even if you don't), this is one that is not to be missed. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.

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Space is for the few. You may have been trained as a professional astronaut and pushed the boundaries of science. Maybe you are a geek done good and decided to spend your billions on the vanity project of commercial space travel. Maybe, just maybe, you are a celeb or competition winner who won the chance to take a flight, the only downside being you must sit next to the said geek done good. Even with more and more people going into space, it is still the relative few. In R W W Greene’s Mercury Rising Earth is at war and we need soldiers. Anyone willing to spend ten years in space and have their bones turn brittle. People like Brooklyn, a man who faces decades in jail or ten years in space.

Brooklyn is an ordinary bloke from New York. Not that ordinary as he would rather deal in the shadier sides of the city than get a job. One well paid job seems simple, find some tapes, and deliver them. It all goes very wrong when someone dies, and Brooklyn’s prints are all over the crime scene. His choice is to go to prison or take a ride to the moon. In this mid-20th century America, the world is at war with the enigmatic creatures of Mercury. Brooklyn’s decision will change his life forever and may just pave the way to saving the planet.

Mercury is a joy of a book to read as it does so many things effortlessly. Writing pulp fiction seems simple, but to do it well is not. The same goes for alternative history, but Greene writes a wonderful slice of pulp sci fi and you never feel drowned out by the differences this alternative world has to our own. There is a boy’s own feel to the story in places. The setting of America during the Cold War makes you think of ray guns and B Movies. These are both present in the book, but there is also an edge. That being the character of Brooklyn.

This is one flawed protagonist. Brooklyn will look for the easy path in life, be that in crime or getting a job in the military with the lowest element of risk. He is not a hero, but the adventure in Mercury gives him little choice. The book is written in parts and spans several decades. There are gaps in Brooklyn’s life that pushes the action faster and gives the book a feel of several vignettes, rather than one continuous whole. I like this as the reader gets a chance to visit so much of Greene’s imagination from New York life to a genuine feeling training camp, moon work and a mysterious location deep underground.

Mercury is not a book that is afraid to move on with the story. It does not become bogged down in once place too long. The one thread through all this is Brooklyn. He matures and becomes a better man, but he will never be fully good. The alternative history is done to perfection. There are no pages of exposition, but instead a sense of time and place is weaved into the characters and their attitudes. Brooklyn feels like a chancer from the late 60s/early 70s, just the way that the characters interact with one another speaks of Cold War tension or race relations.

I love science fiction that is fun, and Mercury Rising is one of the best rides that I have been on. The ideas come thick and fast, all wrapped up in a perfect pulpy alternative history woolly jumper. There are so many great ideas contained in the book, but Greene never wastes time dwelling on them, instead the author is intent on entertaining the reader and moving the story on. If all stories were as entertaining as this, my face would freeze into a rictus grin as I could not stop smiling as I read it.

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This book was so powerful and inspiring that it dragged my butt off my couch and threw me back into my home office to restart writing my own novel. It's that inspiring. I cannot wait for the next book in this series.

Are there better, more technically sound novels out there? Yes. Is there a bit of an issue with the way the hero ends the book? Yes. Is it probably actually a four star book? Yes. So why do I give it five stars?

Because it inspired me to love space again. To think of all the possibilities out there. I think Rob's use of the Alt-History backdrop reminded me of the excitement that space used to be for all of us, and certainly for me. It's what the early books of The Expanse did for me so many years ago now. Yes, by george, it's that good.

It's not perfect. Without giving away a spoiler, there is one small issue at the end that could have been tightened up, but didn't affect the overall aim and arc of the book. The move to a different planet as setting was a bit "jolt-y" as well.

The characters, however, were 100% spot on. Maybe some of the best characterization I've seen in science fiction since I've been podcasting (little over two years). The foundation of the plot is really sound and really cool. I haven't seen something so original in awhile. This is just a really good book.

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A fantastic read exploring intriguingly new ideas that quickly grasps the reader for a page turning ride.

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