It’s Monday! Did you enjoy your weekend? Nothing much to report here; just spent my Saturday cruising around on a lovely new zeppelin. We crash-landed on a mysterious island full of dinosaurs. Sunday I spent on a lifeboat, waiting to be picked up. The joys of being a castaway.
So today I’m going to talk about a book called Arcadia Snips and the Steamwork Consortium by Robert Rodgers. I’ve been hearing about this Steampunk novel for a couple years, and it’s been languishing in my To Be Read pile, waiting for me to get around to it. Finally managed it last week. Yeah. I wish I’d gotten around to it sooner.
Arcadia Snips is the eponymous character, a gifted young thief, escape artist extraordinaire and general guttersnipe in the oh-so-London-like city of Aberwick, the financial beating heart of this Steampunkish alter-ego of Victorian Britain. She has a complicated past involving family members who moonlight as mad scientists. She is joined in the hero role by William Daffodil, a mathematician, who pursues mad science strictly in a hobby capacity. He also has a complicated past involving mad scientists (There are a lot of mad scientists in this story). The third hero is Miss Primrose, a formidable woman, a detective and suffragette, and, unusually, not really tied up with mad scientists. But she’s investigating mad scientists, so I guess there’s a connection after all.
The story revolves around a murder of a certain Mr. Copper, a (mad?) scientist at The Steamwork Consortium, which is a think tank and invention center; they are the creators and maintainers of a difference engine that is being used in every bank in Aberwick, and is therefore the linchpin of the economy of the city, and by extension the entire nation. The government insists on an investigation of Mr. Copper’s death. This is where Mr. Daffodil and Miss Primrose come into the story. The government pulls Miss Snips into the investigation as an “independent investigator.” She’s supposed to represent the government’s interests in the matter. So why pick an obscure young woman who has no connection to government? Not only is she not a trained investigator, at the start of the story she is hiding from the authorities after her most recent prison escape (something she does regularly), and has to resist the urge to steal all the shiny pretties in the office of the man who recruited her.
The reason the government picked her, of all people, was so that she would throw an element of unpredictability into the investigation. And oh, boy, does she do that!
This is pretty much where the story starts getting complicated. I don’t want to get too deep into it, for fear of spoiling things for you. Suffice it to say that, like most murder mysteries, the “obvious” is not to be trusted. Our heroes get pulled into a bizarre web of sabotage, murder, asylums, mad science (saw that one coming!) and industrial… well, “industrial espionage” is not quite the right term, but I’m not sure what other to use. There is also a series of flashback chapters that illustrate the mad scientists that started the whole game in the first place, background of both Daffodil and Snips, the Steamwork Consortium, and how Aberwick came to be the place that it is.
The book is a lot of fun. It is intended to be funny, and it succeeds, though I would be hard-pressed to characterize the humor. It’s not satirical, though it has satirical elements; it’s not Pythonesque, though it has elements of that, too. Light-hearted. Yeah, that’s good enough. This is just a good, silly romp. It’s well written, the characters are well-delineated, the plot tracks along well, there’s just the barest hint of romance. There is charming artwork to accompany the text; normally I don’t notice that sort of thing (my vision ain’t that great), but this time, yeah, they were good. The ubiquity of mad science and mad scientists is a running gag that just tickles me to death.
The only caveat I would name is that the pace is beyond breakneck. The story is flying, boys and girls, moving so fast I thought I was gonna get a whiplash before it was all over. Do Not Start this story unless you have a guaranteed lack of interruptions/distractions; if you lose your focus on this one, it’s gonna sprint away and leave you gasping on the dirigible launchpad. But, yeah, all told, this was a fun read, if you’re looking for something shamelessly silly and light in your Steampunk this week.
So that’s it for me today, friends. Until I see you again on Wednesday, don’t forget to share, tweet, and comment. I am dying to hear from you. And also, if you have suggestions for Fun Fridays, please do send them along to my email (listed on the “About AJ” page). It’s okay to recommend your own stuff; in fact, that’s terrific! I would be delighted to share your work with the rest of my readers!