What’s steampunk without airships and mechanical men? Not to worry, Lucy Saxon gives those to you in spades.
Catherine, the tomboy daughter of a well-connected, powerful lord decides that an arranged marriage is not for her. So she stows away on an airship, gets adopted by the crew, and then helps to uncover a horrible scheme in which her own father is the master-mind. Having lost a war, rather than admit defeat, the aristocracy overthrew the monarchy, instituted a totalitarian state, and started a secret project to build an army of half-mechanical soldiers, but Catherine’s inside knowledge enables the crew of the airship to infiltrate government headquarters and reveal the truth to the rest of the world. Along the way, she pretends to be a boy, falls in love, gets unmasked, and has to prove where her loyalties really lie.
This is a very standard steampunk world, and a very standard adventure plot. The distinctive elements can be described as follows: Take Cromwell’s England, add steampunk, mix in successfully rebellious colonies, then add a dash of dastardly experimentation involving lots of vivisection.
Catherine has spunk. She’s a lively character, and the book’s a fast read. I give the novel a thumbs up, though with the reservations I’ve already noted. This is not a book that will wow anyone as The Next Big Thing, but teen readers who’re turned on to steampunk and are looking for more will definitely enjoy this book.
Note: I checked this book out from my local public library. I have no connection with the author or publisher.
On the surface this book can be described pretty simply: postapocalyptic SF. (To be precise, post-zombie-apocalypse with high-tech zombies.) Just below the surface, things still look familiar. The tropes come straight out of an old Western: a lone gunman with a checkered past protects a dying mother and her young son, even though all his survival instincts tell him he should leave well enough alone. To save them, he must escort them on a dangerous journey toward a distant haven.
But it would be a mistake to stay near the surface, because this book has depths.
The characters aren’t quite what you’d expect from the tropes, in part because other tropes are combined with them in unexpected ways. Are mother and son simply innocents to be rescued? Or are they more like a gangster moll and her brat on the run from the mob? Or are they perhaps some strange variant on Madonna and child, coming home from Egypt? Though the protagonist fits the Western loner-gunman trope rather closely, there are hints of something darker.
That’s another way this isn’t quite what you’d expect from the tropes. This is science fiction, but the world-building is handled like classic fantasy, where the reader is dropped into the middle of things and is expected to infer what’s going on along the way. The world that emerges is one in which the zombie apocalypse happened to a society undergoing the Singularity of futurist projection. We are all wired, and the zombies use our data-trail to hunt us down.
The book has the hard-edged, gritty feel of postapocalyptic fiction. The dialog is terse; the action sequences pound along. But don’t think you’ve escaped into a world without tenderness. It’s there, even if in some cases its encased in armor and eclipsed by the need to survive.
And don’t expect the plot to go where you expect. There are some major twists. I’ll not spoil them. But trust me, you won’t expect the ending.
This book is really, really good. Read it.
I got an advance review copy of this book at Book Expo America. I have no other connection with the author or the publisher. It will be released July 30, 2013.