I’m not a
huge steampunk or western fan, but I really enjoyed this cross between the two. The book is about a prostitute with a heart
of gold in the Pacific Northwest during the Washington territory days in the
1800s. It’s mixed with a Jack the Ripper
style murder mystery where women are found in alleyways flogged to death. It was nominated for the Gaylactic Spectrum
Award in 2016 for positive LGBTQ content in Science Fiction/Fantasy.
The book is
told in first person narrative by Karen Memery, like memory but with an e. She’s an orphaned girl doing the best she can
in Madame Damnable’s high-class bordello in a town called Rapid that’s a sort
of amalgam of Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, and San Francisco, servicing the
mariners and the gold seekers before they head up to Alaska. All is relatively normal until one day, an
injured girl named Priya shows up on the doorstep. Turns out she’s from India and was abducted
and forced into prostitution by the evil competing bordello. Taking her in creates a war between the two
houses. At around the same time women
begin appearing in alleyways flogged to death.
The owner of the other house has a mind-control device that he uses to
control his indentured prostitutes as well as influence the people of the town
against Madame Damnable. Also coming
into the story are a black Lone Ranger type with an American Indian sidekick
who are searching for the murderer.
Together they all try to solve the murder mystery while surviving the
attacks from the competing house.
The story is
really well done. It’s told in old west
style, low-educated grammar. At first I
found it a little annoying, then appreciated it for giving us a sense of who
Karen is. It’s just the right touch of quaint
without being too difficult to read. There
aren’t a lot of flashbacks into Karen’s past but she conveys her life
experience as well as her hopes and dreams.
In particular, she tells us about how she is falling in love with Priya
and wants to settle down on a ranch of her own with her. She’s been saving up money to buy land, as
working in the Hotel Mon Cherie pays pretty well. We get to know a lot about Priya, as well as
several of the young women working at the bordello as they all interact as a
family. The characterization is really well
steampunk category, there are dirigibles, the mind-control device, a Nautilus-type
submersible run by a captain nicknamed Nemo, and a walk-in sewing
machine/automaton that Karen uses as a sort of coat of armor. This walk-in sewing machine was the only
thing I didn’t quite get. I got that it
was like having armor that enhances the musculature of the wearer, but I never
got how it was used for sewing. It didn’t
ruin the story for me in any way, it just made me wonder what it’s for besides
escaping from burning buildings or busting people out of jail.
my blog may note that I’ve been reading this book over two weeks. It’s not a long book, and it’s quick
reading. I was just distracted by
gaming. If I wasn’t playing games for two
solid weeks, I would have read more than 20 pages a night. The action is well described and fast paced. I would have finished this book a lot more
quickly if I hadn’t been playing so many games.
I give this
book four stars out of five. It’s not my
usual brand of excellent, but it was really well written and thought out. I liked Karen, the book’s setting, and its
plot. It’s pretty fun, and I think would
have been a fast read under normal circumstances.
This book is
the definition of space opera. It’s sort
of a cross between a prime-time soap opera and The Godfather set on the
Moon. It’s about five families, known as
the Five Dragons, who control five different mega-corporations on the Moon and
their wars with each other. At first I
didn’t care for the book. I was
overwhelmed with the number of characters (of which there is a three- or
four-page glossary before the book starts) and the constant changes in
perspectives among many of them.
Somewhere after about a third of the way through, I got hooked into the
story and found it a fascinating and engrossing thrill-ride. It’s the first book in a three-part (so far)
series that ends with a bang, but also leaves you hanging for the sequel. The book won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award in
2016 for positive portrayal of LGBTQ themes in SF/Fantasy.
of the story centers around the Corta family, led by the matriarch Adriana. Hailing from Brazil, they control the extraction
of Helium-3, fulfilling the energy demands of the Earth. She is old, and there is tension between two
of her children, Rafa and Lucas, over who will have control of the company when
she dies. More immediately, there is a
sort of lukewarm war between the Cortas and another family, the McKenzies, who
run a mega-mining operation. There are
assassinations and attempts, arranged marriages to create alliances, vendettas,
and all sorts of intrigue within and between each family. All this in an environment where the line
between life and death is razor sharp.
In fact, people must pay for the Four Elementals: water, air, carbon, and data. People pay per breath. Become unemployed, and soon you will suffocate
from not being able to afford your breathing.
But this is a minor issue for the ultra-rich Five Dragons.
created on the Moon is one of extreme capitalism run amok. There is no law but contract law. You can murder, steal, cheat on your spouse,
and so on, as long as you have not signed a contract forbidding it. And when contract breaches come to court,
they can be settled by a duel. There are
no guns on the moon because of the chances of puncturing holes in the protected
environments, so the duels usually involve knives. And there is no democracy, no government of
any kind. Everything is basically controlled
by the Five Dragons.
Like a TV show
like Dallas or Dynasty, almost all the characters are part of one of the five
families, or work for them. We don’t get
a taste of what it’s like to be poor on the Moon, except through the eyes of
one character, Mariana, a fairly recent immigrant who with her friend (or lover,
I was never sure exactly which) are within pennies of running out of breaths. Fortunately, she gets a job with the Cortas,
but not before her friend dies from lack of payment. However, Mariana’s struggle with poverty
really only occurs at the beginning.
Once she is employed, we don’t experience what the lower classes
experience ever again. This is too bad, for
though it would make the book much longer, it might have made the world a
little more fully developed.
I was really
surprised that I liked the characters in the Corta family even though they had
their share of moral repugnance. They’re
not the good guys. They are just most
three-dimensional characters of the book.
There is a machismo that runs through the men of the family, which is a fatal
flaw for many of them, particularly Carlosinho and Lucas. I liked Lucasinho, Adriana’s mostly gay
grandson. At seventeen, he attempts to
run away from home and live without his family. He has to learn to live by his wits since his
father Lucas cuts him off from his accounts.
I also liked Ariel, Adriana’s daughter who is a lawyer and an asexual. And lastly, I was intrigued by Wagner,
Adriana’s youngest son, who is a “wolf”.
He lives in a pack and is influenced by the full Earth in the sky. The concept of a wolf seemed to be a little
hokey, but it intrigued me and I wish there was a little more description of
what being a wolf actually entails.
I give the
book four stars out of five. It took a
while to grab me, but once it did, I wanted to keep on reading. However, I don’t necessarily feel compelled
to follow the story into the next books.
The prose is decent, but I didn’t like how the perspective changed
numerous times through a chapter. This was
especially problematic in the beginning when there are so many characters being
introduced. I recommend this book to
anyone who likes space opera.