Quicksilver, in case you've missed the previous few books in the series, is the silver-tongued gentleman-adventurer whose plan is always to "make it up as he goes along".* In Dark Side, this takes him to strange new places - in both geographical and narrative terms.
Geographically speaking, as you can guess from the cover, Quicksilver is shooting off to the Moon. As one of the furthest-flung colonies in Magna Britannia, the Moon has an isolated, pioneering feel to it. This is where folks go to start new lives - or to escape their old ones.
Ulysses, of course, is pretty satisfied with his life (who wouldn't be?). But his dodgy brother, Barty? It was only inevitable that his troubles would involve him fleeing somewhere to start over.
Ulysses takes to the Moon to get his brother back. Adding further tension to his stretched emotional state is the fact that his former fiancee, Emilia, is sharing the same rocketship. Ulysses, in proper slapstick fashion, is incapable of saying or doing the right thing. Despite his fervent promises to turn over a new leaf, Emilia keeps walking in on him at exactly the wrong time.**
Still, as entertaining as Ulysses' personal life is, his emotional conflicts are only the tiniest subset of the many, many conflicts within the pages of Dark Side. Ulysses is chased by robots, guards, more robots, dogs, robot dogs, henchmen, robot henchmen, meteors*** and an army of Nazi clones.
Perhaps the biggest journey is the actual structure of Dark Side, which goes into uncharted territory for the series. Whereas the previous books were essentially one-offs (although one-offs that rewarded loyal readers), Dark Side builds out of the existing Pax Britannia mythos. Although reading the short story "Vanishing Point" isn't absolutely necessary to understanding Dark Side, it certainly gives you a running start.**** And, on the other end of the book, Dark Side is the first in the series to actually end with a proper, "ack!-when-is-the-next-book-out?!" cliffhanger.
Dark Side is the biggest book in the series in all respects. By bringing in characters and conflicts from earlier books (some for the last time), Green elevates this from a snappy, pocket-sized adventure into the start of something properly epic. Even bringing Emilia back as the object of flirtation helps make this book more serious and less ephemeral than those that came before it. Without giving away any spoilers, the reader feels like the cozy universe of Pax Britannia is truly, irreversibly changing.
My main complaint? I'm always loathe to endorse cliff-hangers - especially in books that I actually enjoy. I'm also a fundamentally wary reader when it comes to series evolution. I enjoy the Quicksilver books just the way they are, but Dark Side is clearly a cross-over point to something new and different. I have great faith in Mr Green's ability to bring the reader with him into new territory but I don't want to lose everything about the series that I've enjoyed in the past. Epic is great, but so is witty, clever and good old-fashioned fun. Ulysses Quicksilver has always brought those to the reader, and let's hope he continues to do so in the future as well.
Finally, a quick note to reward double-bonus-Awesome Points for the cover art, a cheeky pastiche of the famous shot from the 1902 silent movie, A Journey to the Moon. This isn't the only homage to the film (and the original Verne story) that takes place within Dark Side.
[In the spirit of full disclosure, I actually won a contest to have my name appear in this book. So my integrity as a blogger is fairly questionable*****. Then again, considering Mr Green actually does to the character with my name, I think I would be completely justified in enacting some sort of sinister revenge.]
***No robot meteors. That'd be ridiculous.
****...which is included in Leviathan Rising. Did we mention that was our favorite? Just saying.
*****HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA... whew. Sorry.