Cover art: Jon Foster
A CLOCKWORK CENTURY NOVEL/
CLOCKWORK CENTURY BOOK THREE
Published: 27 September 2011
On the cover:
The air pirate Andan Cly is going straight. Well, straighter. Although he’s happy to run alcohol guns wherever the money’s good, he doesn’t think the world needs more sap, or its increasingly ugly side effects. But going straight is easier said than done, and Cly’s first legal gig—a supply run for the Seattle Underground—will be paid for by sap money.New Orleans is not Cly’s first pick for a shopping run. He loved the Big Easy once, back when he also loved a beautiful mixed-race prostitute named Josephine Early—but that was a decade ago, and he hasn’t looked back since. He's still on Jo's mind, though, or so he learns when he gets a telegram about a peculiar piloting job. It’s a chance to complete two lucrative jobs at once, one he can’t refuse. He sends his old paramour a note and heads for New Orleans, with no idea of what he’s in for—or what she wants him to fly.But he won’t be flying. Not exactly. Hidden at the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain lurks an astonishing war machine, an immense submersible called the Ganymede. This prototype could end the war, if only anyone had the faintest idea of how to operate it…. If only they could sneak it past the Southern forces at the mouth of the Mississippi River… If only it hadn’t killed most of the men who’d ever set foot inside it.But it’s those “if onlys” that will decide whether Cly and his crew will end up in the history books, or at the bottom of the ocean.
Like the second Clockwork Century book, Dreadnought, this also gives us a new location for the story. But this time we are much more tied to Boneshaker, the first book, through the re-appearing characters.
There's two main characters this time, Adnan Cly who we met in Boneshaker and Josephine Early, who is new to the series. Early is a fascinating woman, and her "boarding house" in New Orleans provides a great setting to show off a side of society we rarely see detailed in SFF.
The supporting cast are also interesting in their own right, there's not a feeling of them being there just to "fill in the scenery" of the story. That some of them are returning from the previous books is also welcome, and it gives the novel a great connection to the Clockwork Century series as a whole.
New Orleans is a great setting for the story, and it also provides some very interesting insights into what is changed from our history in Priest's books.
What has happened to New Orleans in this timeline's history is central to the story of this novel. And I found the revelations of the greater events that have shaped the New Orleans we see very interesting. The Alternate History of The Clockwork Century continues to be added to, and I think the historical backdrop shows off the strength of Priest's worldbuilding skill.
The novel is by no means confined to the Alternate History genre, there is much more going on here that comes from other SFF subgenres, but I must say that I enjoy immensely seeing Priest give us greater and greater understanding of the larger world as the series progresses.
The story this time has a great deal of suspense to it, as well as some nice action scenes. The New Orleans and surrounds setting gives a nice backdrop to a story that while completely in line with The Clockwork Century as a whole, has a very distinct feel to it. Josephine Early works as a great centre for the events depicted and her personal story adds depth to the novel.
Events move at a pretty fast pace, but never at the expense of substance. There are some great references to our history here that I think will be nice "Easter eggs" for those who are interested in history.
The way the story manages to mix the suspense, action, and worldbuilding makes for an excellent read. This novel really cements Priest's place at the forefront of the current Alternate History/Steampunk wave. She writes an excellent mix of Alternate History, Steampunk, and adventure novel that deserves to be widely read. If you are not familiar with this series, I urge you to pick it up the next time you shop for books.