The Angel of the Revolution: A Tale of the Coming Terror is the 1893 debut science fiction novel by English writer George Griffith.
A Review by Billy Catringer
Historical Context Edit
Griffith wrote The Angel of the Revolution as a serial for Pearson's Magazine, starting in January and ending in October of 1893. The story is set in the year of 1903, and Griffith was not the least bit shy about using the names of living persons, such as Czar Alexander III, then on the throne of Russia in 1893 when the story was being serialized.. He also mentions Kaiser Wilhelm II who was sitting on the throne of a newly unified Germany. He even referred to the then Prince of Wales, Edward VII, as the King of England, nine years prior to Queen Victoria's death (died 1902). Also, Griffith mentioned a French General named le Gallifet, but he appears to be none other than Gaston Alexandre Auguste, Marquis de Gallifet. Gallifet was indeed a general in the French Army and was infamous for his rough treatment of the Communards following the end of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Griffith assigns his Gallifet character the role of dictator over France.
In the story, Griffith tars Russia and the Romanovs as well as the French and his General le Gallifet, with the guilt brush. He accuses them of numerous abuses, excesses, and more than a few atrocities. He is not quite so unkind to the Capitalists in the United States and Canada, but he does give them very short shrift, lumping them in with the royalty of Europe.
Griffith's work is very similar to that of Tom Clancy, in that he intended his stories to be page-turners, with the stories set in the very near future. There are glaring differences between Griffith and Clancy, of course, but the analogy holds together fairly well until the politics of the two authors are compared. However, in the case of the Romanov Dynasty, Griffith cut the timing a bit too close. Alexander III who in 1893 was healthier than the majority of horseflesh for sale in Russia, came down with a fatal kidney problem in 1894. His elder brother Nicolas had been the heir apparent and quite healthy up until his death from a mysterious ailment contracted while traveling around Europe in 1865. Alexander II, known as The Liberator, and the father of Alexander III, was killed by bomb throwing assassins in 1881. Czar Alexander II was known as the liberator because he freed serfs of Russia from their landlords.
Griffith, as a working reporter, should have realized that the then sitting Czar was not so bad as he and his fellow news reporters wanted Alexander III to be. In his story however, Griffith makes Alexander III out to be the worst of the worst, worth at least ten times his 300 pound weight in the Devil's pit coal by the time Griffith killed the long suffering sod off in this story. Oddly enough, the newly elected Republican President of the United States,Benjamin Harrison, is never mentioned by name. He does use the oft repeated socialist solecism that democracy in the United States is some sort of vast magic trick. That the elections in the United States really only elect the persons the moneyed classes want for their leaders. Not only do Americans elect the government they want, they get the government they deserve.
- Israel di Murska, also known as, Natas the Master Terrorist ; this character is the mastermind behind the whole of the revolution taking place in this story, as well as being the father of its main love interest, Olga Romanoff. He has some sort of mysterious power that he uses to influence the minds of key people in his organization, such as Alan Tremayne, Richard Arnold, Alex Mazanoff, et al. He even uses this poweer against his enemies, but he is clearly not omnipotent in its use. Several people slip out of his control when they are at a distance from him.
- Olga Romanoff; the daughter of Natas and the primary love interest in this story. She is both beautiful and brave, otherwise she would not be the primary love interest for whom all the male characters are willing to lay down their lives and fortunes. She is one the keys to the Natas character's grip on power over his fellow communists. She is very headstrong and independent for a woman of the Victorian Era.
- Richard Arnold; the de rigueur inventive super-genius engineer in this kind of story. He invents the flying machines, along with the necessary engines and fuel, to lift them from the ground. These machines in this story are called air-ships, but they do not rely on buoyant gasses for their ability to fly. They are equipped with dynamite guns, a kind of pneumatic cannon invented by an American named D.M. Medford in 1883. This design was later improved by a Polish-American named Edmund Zalinsky. Richard Arnold finds a two component hypergolic fuel to run the engines of the airships on, eliminating the need for a compression stroke. Armstrong's engines are equipped with a clockwork mechanism to force small quantities of both components of his hypergolic fuel into the cylinders. The fuel burns when its two components come together and the expanding gasses push the engine's pistons down, thereby forcing the crankshaft to turn. If all this technobabble appears to be for naught, rest assured that it would result in an engine with a very high power-to-weight ratio, which was much of the battle fought when trying to build aircraft that were heavier than air. Griffith has done his homework quite well on this matter.