Ganymede (Clockwork Century)
If you read my reviews regularly, then you’ve seen Cherie Priest’s name come up more than once. I’ve read almost everything that she’s written, and I think that she’s a creative and entertaining writer. I jumped at the chance to read her newest novel, Ganymede, and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“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 becoming legit 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. Jo’s still thinking about him, 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.”
Whereas Dreadnought felt like an interim story—a stretch of road on the path to the greater story arc—Ganymede takes the plot forward by leaps and bounds. Readers will learn more about the spread of the zombies (called as such for the first time) and how they are impacting Civil War America. Also, the search for the Ganymede itself has implications for this universe’s version of the war. Politics abound, and it’s clear that Priest is setting up some interesting confrontations in future stories.
The author took a couple of colorful historical characters and brought them into her tale—a prostitute who was rumored to be a man in woman’s garb, and the infamous voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Marie remains mostly in the background (to my disappointment, as I liked Priest’s rendition of her), but the prostitute, Ruthie Doniker, has a much more active role. I appreciate how these real people have been incorporated seamlessly into the narrative.
It’s clear that the author has done her research, as the submersible and its workings are gritty and realistic. This isn’t a fantasy steampunk scenario, where everything works perfectly and all the characters have to do is walk around in goggles and look cool. This is a machine that has killed people who have tried to understand it, and even such minor details as river current and oxygen use have their place. It does make the story a little technical in places, but the facts don’t take long to establish. The narrative never slows due to too much geekery.
I found this book to be just as enjoyable as the previous one, but it’s so much more tightly woven and plotted that I have to rank it among the best of Priest’s novels. With exquisite worldbuilding, a colorful cast of characters and a whole lot of steam power, Ganymede blows the competition out of the water.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on October 26, 2011.