This was my first foray into the world of Steampunk – a type of science-fiction with a heavy dose of Victoriana and often featuring a real mix of the futuristic and, as the name suggests, the steam powered – and, based on this book it won’t be my last!
Our hero is a young fisherman living on the Yorkshire coast who is an avid reader of a ‘penny dreadful’ and the exploits of Captain Lucian Trigger. When his father disappears under mysterious circumstances Gideon decides that only a hero like the Captain can save the day. He heads for London, joining up with Maria – the Mechanical Girl – on the way and falls into the most fantastical turn of events. In the true spirit of the ‘penny dreadful’ genre we meet a huge array of characters (including Bram Stoker, Einstein’s dad, Jack the Ripper and Queen Victoria herself) and have some rip-roaring adventures. We meet vampires, mummies, shadowy government agents, dirty old men, feisty women, sky-pirates and journalists. Since the author is a newspaperman himself I found it amusing that one of my favourite characters is a foul-mouthed hack (of the fat sweaty variety). Although there is an awful lot in the story I found it a pretty gripping read – well-written and pacy.
We also finish the book with new ideas on what makes a real hero – overcoming fears seems more important than being fearless – and a sense that there are more stories to come. I, for one, am looking forward to the next outing for Gideon Smith.