Review: The Iron Duke

The Iron Duke (The Iron Seas, #1)The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For being a book whose cover features a shirtless guy wearing a shiny leather jacket and showing off his washboard abs, The Iron Duke was quite good! It skews more towards romance than the previous steampunk books I’ve read this month, but it also doesn’t shirk its responsibilities in the world-building department.

The world in The Iron Duke is based on a post-Industrial Revolution England, where some controlling entity, only referred to as The Horde injected the people of England with a nano virus some two hundred years ago. The nano virus lets the Horde control the people’s emotions, dictating when they’re passive, and when they go into a frenzy of emotion (perfect for when it’s mating time.) Through some chain of events, the Horde is overthrown, the infected people, called buggers regain control of their lives back, and the book picks up from there.

More specifically, the book revolves around Mina, a police inspector in England who barely gets any respect just because she was the unfortunate product of a Horde raping her mother. She gets spit on and threatened daily because of her mix-raced features and has to work extra hard to prove that she’s just as good as everyone else. She meets Rhys, the Iron Duke, they go on air ship adventures, they shag, they fall in love, etc. etc.

Yes, the book was formulaic to the paranormal romance genre even though there wasn’t exactly anything paranormal going on. I guess there were zombies. Do zombies count? Even though the plot wasn’t ground-breaking, the book was a joy to read and pages sped by quickly.

The Iron Duke has steampunk, romance, air pirating, evil secret cults, roguish men, strong women, and a pretty darn good world built around it. It’s no wonder I liked it. The second book will be on my radar when it gets released.

I also have to give props to the author for at least trying to promote birth control during sex, unlike some other books where characters seem to go at it with no reproductive consequences.
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Review: The Time Machine

The Time MachineThe Time Machine by H.G. Wells

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Short and sweet. Sometimes, that’s just what I need. Fresh off my latest Steampunk Month read, Boneshaker (2/5 stars), I wanted to read an older, classic steampunk book. After a browse through a list of steampunk books on Goodreads, I came upon The Time Machine and thought, why not?

The book, barely spanning over 100 pages, is about a man who builds a time machine, travels to the far, far, future (it’s the year 820701 or something) and meets what he believes will be the descendants of man. This all sounds very been there, done that, but the amazing thing of The Time Machine is that it was written in the 1800’s!

No, this isn’t a review about how the book was great for its time. It’s great even now. The Time Machine starts off with some gentlemen discussing ideas and theories in some guy’s parlor. There’s some basic exposition about fourth dimension mathematics, which will be easy to follow for anyone who’s taken basic geometry. That, I think is the brilliance of The Time Machine. It has vaguely scientific explanations of how time traveling works, but it’s not bogged down with the technical difficulties. Instead, it dives right into the mysterious world of the future.

The only disappointing thing I can say about The Time Machine, and this is entirely my fault, is that it’s not very steampunk. Other than the time traveling device, which I guess could be vaguely steampunk in that it has mechanical components, there’s not any steampunk at all. Luckily, that didn’t deter me from finishing the book. It would be a shame to not finish the story and hear what the Time Traveler had to say.

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Review: Boneshaker

Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century, #1)Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I very much wanted to like this book. It was recommended by many people as possibly the best steampunk book of that year. The cover is awesome and the title is awesome

The short review: The plot could be described as a Steam Punk Wizard of Oz with zombies. On paper, that sounds great, but after reading the book, the whole Big Problem boils down to non-communication. I hate books that rely on miscommunication (or even non-communication) to add mystery and intrigue.

Long version:

Priest crafts a bleak, dirty, wild-west type world where an evil gas called the Blight has been unleashed that can either 1) kill you or 2) turn you into a flesh-eating zombie. The Blight itself was what kept me reading. I wanted to know where it came from and if there was a way to defeat it. Unfortunately, that’s not the story Priest wants to tell.

Instead, Priest tells a story about a stupid, reckless teenage son, Zeke, who goes into the heart of a city where Blight is the strongest in order to ferret out some truth to rumors of his father (who is rumored to have been the cause of the Blight) and a hard-working mother, Briar, who runs into the city after her stupid child in order to save him. All this could have been avoided if only mother had told the son the truth about what happened years ago. Her alternative to telling the truth — living poor as dirt and as an outcast in society, doesn’t seem logical or better at all. I’d understand it if keeping the truth from her child meant he’d have an easier life, but that’s not it.

Although Zeke and Briar are supposed to be the main characters of the book, I couldn’t relate to them at all. Zeke was stupid, mouthy, and always did the wrong thing at just the right time to foul things up. Using that as a device to move the plot around was frustrating to read. Briar, who I liked slightly better than Zeke, seems to go through the first half of the book with blinders on. Yes, it’s frustrating to lose your son in a town of incredibly fast zombies, yes you’ve had a hard life, but stop and look at what’s around you, woman. Her whole issue with keeping things a secret even from people who are attempting to help her really was a thorn in my side.

Then there’s the unnecessary racism. Maybe calling Chinese workers slant-eyes and downgrading them to less than human status gives a certain dated authenticity to the world in Boneshaker, but it’s hard to believe that people would be so unfriendly and hostile to the Chinese workers who are responsible for pumping clean, breathable air into the city. You’d think with the danger of getting eaten by a zombie, the people of the city would band together better.

And the ending? Well, I don’t want to spoil anything, but it was pretty disappointing in a bait and switch kind of way. It was what reinforced my idea that a lot of bad things could have been avoided by something as simple as communication.

I know that it’s the journey that counts and not the ending, and while the journey was thrilling at times and Priest does know how to write suspenseful scenes, the lackluster ending overshadowed any good parts I could recall of the book.

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