The Conscientious Objector
Following the publication of the relaunched books of the Factory Girl trilogy – complete with Tom Brown covers – a fourth novel, never previously published, was published in late 2019 by Infinity Plus Books. The Conscientious Objector follows Erasmus Darwin through 1914-15, as war commences on the Western Front and he, though a pacifist, is drawn into it.
Cover by Tom Brown.
With the outbreak of war on the Continent, Erasmus Darwin finds himself caught up in a jingoistic fervour for which he feels no sympathy. Yet soon he is on the Western Front: frightened, appalled, and alone apart from a few pals who don’t understand his pacifism.
Soon however he finds himself entangled in a secret mission the like of which has never been attempted, one which stretches his pacifism to the limit…
‘… a thought-provoking and thoroughly offbeat alternative history of the first world war… Stunningly inventive, and striking a delicate balance between outre fantasy and a respectful exploration of its source material, the novel charts the poignant relationship between young lovers thrown together in the thick of an awful war, where loyalties are never clearcut and fates are in doubt until the final pages.’ – Eric Brown in the Guardian.
‘Stephen Palmer’s latest literary offering expands the steampunk universe of the Factory Girl trilogy and the life of our hero Erasmus Darwin who, like so many of his generation, finds himself embroiled in The Great War of 1914. But, of course, this is a different war to the one that history teaches us. This is a war in which the opposing cultures are supported by clockwork automata, not least of which are the Duloids – mechanisms that not only resemble humans in form but believe themselves to be human at least in spirit. It is within this setting that Erasmus and his companions take part in an adventure that will lead them far behind enemy lines and where they will learn as much about themselves as the secret world they unearth. Of course, this being a Stephen Palmer novel, there’s a little more to it than that. As is his style, he employs his imaginary world to explore themes that resonate with us today. It is well written with a language in a manner befitting the Edwardian/Georgian eras, but not so much as to make it unreadable. It also has a reasonable mixture of exciting exploits and moments of revelation. If you fancy something a little different in terms of fantasy, you could do a lot worse than give this book a try. It’s refreshingly unusual and, in that sense, Palmer is probably closer in mindset to Lewis Carroll than GRR Martin.’ – SFF Chronicles.
‘Read this book when you want to go on an adventure… The underlying themes in this story are highly pertinent. This is a story about how we see ourselves, and whether we are willing to find out how others see us. This is a tale that questions the wisdom of living in an echo chamber and champions the need for different perspectives. It’s also a protest against all forms of absolutism. There are always exceptions. There should always be room for nuance and difference. When people insist there is only one truth, only one way to live, or love, or think about things, nothing good can come of it… Heartily recommended!’ – Nimue Brown.