Steampunk day. Again. Because reasons. And those reasons are largely because I like it. Steampunk is everywhere lately, it’s the hot thing. I’ve seen steampunk aesthetics on TV shows like Warehouse 13 (which I really need to catch up on) and merch at the “Random Crap from Asia” Store in the mall. You know that store, every mall has one. It’s got the display quality (at best) swords and Buddhas and little pots of bamboo. Well, they’ve got a steampunk wall now too. $80 for some goggles? Hell no. I have goggles. They cost me $7 on ebay and they’re Swiss military surplus.
So what do you do for a real goggle fix if you don’t want chintzy mall crap and can’t muster the credit card control to play on ebay? Read. Duh. Should be doing that anyways. And if you’re going to read steampunk, go for the end all be all, go to steampunk series, The Clockwork Century by Cherie Priest. I’ve got the latest in the series, The Inexplicables.
Back of the book time!
Rector “Wreck-em” Sherman was one of many kids orphaned by the Blight of 1863, but one of very few who made it to his eighteenth birthday. As a reward, he’s being cast out of the orphanage he grew up in. But Wreck’s problems don’t stop there. He’s been breaking the cardinal rule of any good drug dealer and dipping into his own sap supply. He also things he’s being hunted by the ghost of a kid he used to know – Zeke Wilkes, who died six months ago, after Wreck helped him get into the walled city of Seattle.
Maybe the haunting is only his guitly conscience, but Wreck can’t take it anymore, so he sneaks over the wall. Once there, he finds that Zeke isn’t as dead as he thought… but the wasteland of Seattle is as bad as he’d heard; chock full of hungry undead and smothered by the poisonous, inescapable yellow gas. And then there are the newcomers: not at all human, but not rotters, either. Arms too long, eyes all wild, murderously violent, and know to the locals simply as “The Inexplicables.”
Seattle’s de facto leader, Yaozu, gives Rector his first real job: to track down these creatures before they do any more harm. In the process, Rector finds another set of dangerous intruders, lured there by greed. Something valuable lurks within the city wall, and the newcomers will kill to take it… which means that Rector needs to figure out where his loyalties lie. Fast.
All of The Clockwork Century books tie in with each other, but are essentially stand alone books. I approve of this, especially since I’m missing one for some reason. Minor characters in one book are the stars of another. Rector actually shows up early on in the first of the series, Boneshaker, although what with the fact that I’m bad at names and I read that other book two years ago, I completely forgot about it until the book prodded me with what he did. It’s that “helped him get into the walled city of Seattle” bit from above. Rector went from two scenes to push the plot forward to the star of the show.
He’s kind of an ass though. If you’re familiar with the series, the Blight gas that shut down Seattle can be turned into sap. Sap gets people high as a kite and is sold as such. Too much sap and you turn yourself into a rotter, i.e. zombie. Remember, back of the book told use that Rector is a user as well as a dealer. On page one, he’s one bad trip away from becoming a rotter himself. Which kind of makes him a tool. Oh he’s not so miserable that I ever wanted to put down the book, but definitely a tool.
Eventually the character warmed up to me. Took just as long to warm up to the other characters in Seattle. Back of the book already said Zeke isn’t dead so we know he shows up again and so does Huey. Seeing as they’re practically the only teenagers in Seattle, they end up paling around. Huey in particular didn’t seem to like Rector much though their relationship progressed for the positive once Rector got clean as the book went on. Rector’s mind clears as he gets off the sap and the clarity of his thinking is something you can track through the book. The plot actually takes a bit of time to get working and it moves pretty evenly with the amount of time that Rector takes to get his head clear.
Rector’s missions are The Inexplicable and the Other Intruders. I picked up on what was going on with both forks of the story pretty early on. I liked them both although the Other Intruders had more impact on the well being of Seattle whereas The Inexplicable was almost a personal quest for Rector (even though he did have a crew with him for the quest). The two plot tangents never quite came together like I thought they would but meh, they were both satisfying in their own way and neither left dangling threads. I can call those victories.
I like being back in Seattle again. Dreadnaught was about Mercy Lynch getting from the deep south to Seattle. Ganymede is about airship captain Anton Cly doing a job in New Orleans. Seeing the rest of the world of this series is great, you know I love world building, but Seattle is the anchor for this series. This time around our view of the city is expanded somewhat which I am all for.
So I liked world and the writing and all sorts of stuff right down the sepia tone ink they use for the printing, not to mention the series has some of the best covers in SF. I eventually liked Rector… well enough. But characters don’t have to be likeable for a book to be good or even great. (See Desert Spear for that) While I still think it’s a toss up between Boneshaker and Ganymede for best in the series, The Inexplicables is a hell of a read. I’d really like to see where Rector ends up.