I have limited experience with steampunk. Most of what I’ve stumbled across has been romance of some sort or other, which is fine in its way. But that’s why I kept expecting someone to leap into bed with someone in this book. There is a romance element – but a PNR this ain’t. (*muted rejoicing*)
What this is is the story of Professor Cecil Reardon, whose wife and young son were killed in a terrible accident – and he wants them back. He has been working to conquer all obstacles to the time travel necessary to go back and save them. The work is kept undercover; to keep them from interfering, he is happy to allow the Leviacrum Council to see him as having become a doddering old codger broken by his tragedies. He is getting close, when one night –
The same night that Lord Garrett Embrey goes on the lam from the Leviacrum Council. He took the floor to protest, in the strongest terms, the unjust executions of his father and uncle, and when his vocal dissent accelerates the Council’s intentions to put him out of the way, he runs out into the night –
Which is also the same night that sees Airship Officer Verity Champlain into the port of London. She and her crew have seen some harrowing action, leaving her the senior officer aboard, and she and her largely African crew are looking forward to decompressing and untangling exactly what has happened to them and to the Empire, and what will happen next. And ice cream. Their airship sails into London’s night –
And the night is split by a massive concussion, a blinding light. When people gradually come to, they discover that they are where they had been, in the heart of London – but they are no longer when they had been. The blocks of London town where they happened to be have been excised and transported back – to the age of dinosaurs.
The result is the best dinosaurs vs. humans story I’ve ever read.
Not that there have been so very many of those.
Conspiracy, top-secret government plots, dinosaurs stampeding through London streets; factions emerging and lives coming under threat in the heat of emotion; loyalty and betrayal and, yes, a romance – all the folk dropped together in the midst of the prehistoric jungle don’t quite get along, and even the prospect of getting back home doesn’t pull them together. And if they do get home … then what? The velociraptor is out of the bag, the experiment in time travel has gone beyond the drawing board, and the government is going to be all over it.
Skillful writing, nice characterizations, a really wonderful airship, and some truly awful dinosaurs and people both: well done.