The Aethers of Mars is actually two Steampunk tales by two different authors. The book is part of the Stellar Guild Series, which partners veteran authors in the genre with newer authors. In Eric Flint’s “In the Matter of Savinkov,” a legendary assassin travels to Mars to ruin Cecil Rhodes’ plans to transform the British Empire into a galactic power. Charles E. Gannon’s “White Sand, Red Dust” shares the setting with Flint’s work and serves as a sequel of sorts.
It is always fun to watch two authors feed off of each other’s work. From a timeline perspective, Gannon’s story actually begins before the events of Flint’s story and at times overlaps, offering an interesting perspective for both works. The two tales, however, have very different vibes. Flint’s story is a slow-building spy game, while Gannon’s story is more a high-octane thriller. Both present the setting in a consistent manner that is both familiar and fantastic.
Pacing in both stories is somewhat flawed. Flint drags in some spots while Gannon skims over areas that should be fleshed out a bit more. And as stand alone works, they feel incomplete. Neither story really provides a clear resolution to the events it presents. But taken together, they do widen our view of events a bit more. These two stories are more enjoyable read together than as separate entities.