Saturday, June 22, 2013

Review: The Steam Mole by David Freer

Title: The Steam Mole
Author: David Freer
Series: After the Melt #2
Pages: 300
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Date Published: December 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Steampunk
Source: Library

A Steampunk adventure with an environmental point. After a daring chase across the globe, Tim Barnabas and Clara Calland have brought Clara's scientist mother's secret formula to Westralia. Here, much of Australia is simply too hot to be habitable by day. Duke Malcolm, of the Imperial Security Service, transports Clara's rebel-father to a prison in Eastern Australia, hoping to bait her into attempting a rescue. Clara looks to Tim for help, only to find he has fled a racist incident into the desert. She takes a burrowing machine know as a "steam mole" in search of him. The two head to Eastern Australia, where they discover an invading force with plans to take Westralia back for the British Empire. 

My Review:
The Steam Mole is another exciting addition to the cannon of Steampunk Literature. Picking up right where the Cuttlefish left off, the second book in the series follows the adventures of Clara and Tim as the struggle to survive in the tough Westralian environment. For Clara, it's not so much of a struggle to survive at first, as it is a struggle against the men of the country. Left to their own devices after the Melt" disaster chased the British Empire out of Austrailia, the newly founded country of Westrailia has regressed to a more...unequal stance on female equality. While females are cherished and treated well, they are truly treated as pretty little flowers. No real schooling or education for Westrailian ladies of quality, and of course our darling Clara has problems with that, seeing as she pretty much became a sailor on the Cuttlefish. The dashing Tim Barnabas also has real issues to deal with. The Cuttlefish crew have been split up, needing to work in order to pay for repairs to the ship, and Tim has been shuttled far far off to the north to work for the railroad company. The Westrailian culture has also become decidedly racist in it's path of regression. Instead of dealing with the "Abos" or aboriginals in a humane way, the Westralians, particularly the railroad companies, treat people of color as lesser, sometimes even as if they were slaves.

The POV was mainly between Tim and Clara, though we are introduced to a bevy of new characters who alternately tell the story through their own eyes. Linda is a Westralian girl around Clara's age whose family takes Clara in when Mrs. Calland falls ill with a mysterious disease. Linda has been raised to be frilly and fluffy and have her life revolve around her secret beau, Nicky. Clara and Dr. Calland represent a side of being female that Linda has never seen before and she becomes involved in Dr. Calland's work and Clara's adventure to find Tim. It was wonderful to see such a silly character grow into something more, and to really see the internal developments taking place within Westralian culture. Also new to the scene, is Jack Calland, Clara's father. We had only heard about him up to this point, but now we get his perspective as he struggles through the tough imprisonment in Queensland (the remaining parts of Australia still being held by the Imperial Government). Lampy, a half-aboriginal who is also at the prison camp, helps free Jack and they both escape into the desert, looking for Jack's family.

I really enjoyed the dynamics of Westralian politics and culture. It was easy to see how the regression to racism and sexism could take place, particularly in an era that resembles the Victorian standpoint of the 1800's. I also completely loved how Clara and Tim tore those prejudices to pieces. Tim is as resourceful, stubborn, and determined as ever, standing up to the foreman for treating him poorly and even being almost killed because of it. Lampy too was a huge development when it comes to character and race. His back-story is sad and infuriating, which makes his ever-growing role within the novel such a meaningful experience. The reader really grows along with him and hist triumphs and sorrows become our own.

Overall, the story is much more complex and meaningful than the originating plot in the Cuttlefish. While character development took a backseat in this one, and to me, relationships seemed a bit contrived, the true heart and meaning of the book shone out in the development of both Linda and Lampy. I was actually more interested in their stories than in Tim and Clara's.The gadgets and vehicles were also much better in this book. While the Cuttlefish mainly featured a simple submarine, The Steam Mole has all kinds of gadgets, from Fly-ships, the ammonia distiller, to the steam mole itself. I could have used a tad more description and detail with the gadgetry, but I did enjoy what was there.

I give The Steam Mole a solid 4 Keys out of 5. It's a beautifully told story about the regression of the human race to less equal times, and then goes on to use extremely relatable characters to show the struggle towards gaining equality once more. I liked the plot, though it dragged occasionally as we jumped from one character to the next. The story had a lot of deeper meaning than on the surface of just the storyline which I appreciated a lot. The steampunk aspect is going strong with all of the inventions and gadgety vehicles. One critique I would make on this series is that it doesn't have a map of the new world that exists after "The Melt" happens. In this alternate history, the Melt destroyed the majority of the world as we knew it in the 1800's, leaving much of the world with intense climate change as well as hugely increased water levels. I would have loved maps that detailed just what the world looks like, in addition to a map of Westralia (it's hard to picture the geography and cities of a country that doesn't exist) and the London Under-Tunnels. Thanks for stopping by and if you haven't had a chance to check out the first book in the series, you can find a like to it below!

Review of: The Cuttlefish by David Freer

1 comment:

  1. What a great review. This series is new to me and it sounds like a great story premise with characters I would love to get to know better.
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