Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders by Richard Ellis Preston Jr.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Usually I don’t go for steampunk, but having been on something of a pulp rush the last few weeks, I figured what the heck…
Steampunk is a big thing at the moment, it seems that wherever you go there is another novel set in a pseudo-Victorian world with parasols, goggles and broken valves. A post-apocalyptic steampunk adventure adds a new variation on he trope, and to his credit Richard Ellis Prestons pulls it off, though not without some issues along the way.
The place: California, several centuries into the future, after an alien invasion has turned the world into a poisonous wasteland overrun by strange alien creatures. Civilization has regressed back to the age of steam, with zeppelins being the primary mode of transport. The story doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail about how this happened, but the setting itself is fully realized enough that the reader doesn’t really care. It’s a bit of a hoot as well, seeing Los Angeles, perhaps the most superficial place in the world, regarded in this tale as a place of legends, with the Hollywood sign as a remnant of the old world. If you familiar with the geography of Southern California, it gives the story a bit of of an extra kick. Romulus Buckle is a zeppelin captain in this world, on a mission to rescue…well, that bit doesn’t really matter, since its all really an excuse to swashbuckle and so on.
The story does have a major drawback though the way it is organized. Most oft e chapters are really short and bounce around between a number of different characters, slowing the story and making it difficult to follow, as well as identify with the characters themselves. It can make for a complicated and frustrating read. All in all though, a solid effort, in need of some polish.