Monday, May 13, 2013

[Review] March of the Cogsmen

Galvanic Century series, book 8

by Michael Coorlim

Verdict: Outstanding - I loved almost everything about it.

A steampunk adventure story that doesn't waste words.

It's Alton Bartleby's wedding day, and he's spending the morning -- and much of the afternoon -- getting thoroughly wasted. One might think from his behavior that he doesn't want to get married, and, in fact, he has a reputation as being a bachelor-for-life. So when a mystery of missing people comes around, his detective instincts are aroused (despite his inebriation) and he skips out on his responsibilities at the garden party to investigate.

Meanwhile, his fiancée Aldora Fiske just wants the day to end. The marriage is one of convenience, a match made to keep the idle tongues from wagging. She doesn't hate Alton, but doesn't love him. Likewise his thoughts for her.

But Aldora's adventuresome past causes a stir as the missing people mystery is resolved quite suddenly during the garden party.

March of the Cogsmen synthesizes the story elements previously explored in the Alton Bartleby/James Wainwright and Aldora Fiske novellas. It is part of the author's plan to branch out into writing longer stories.

Unfortunately, I had not the pleasure of reading the previous novellas, and I admit I had no idea what to expect. I knew the story was "steampunk" and my only experience with the genre is Scott Westerfield's Leviathan trilogy, which I won't talk about here as it's beyond the scope of this review.

In Coorlim's steampunk world, clockwork devices and aeroships are the pinnacle of modern technology. Alton's partner, James, is an engineer, and in fact some of the previous novellas are written from his perspective -- perhaps a nod to Holmes's Watson. March of the Cogsmen is written third person, like the Aldora novellas.

In this world there also exist what are called "the Resurrected" -- cadavers brought to life through immoral technology. Without spoiling too much, this is what stole my attention. The wedding begins as a normal wedding, and Aldora struck me as a normal noblewoman worrying over her fiancé's antics, and the story suddenly takes a turn for the macabre that, having no knowledge of Coorlim's works, took me by complete surprise.

I will say this: I'm behind on my reviews and it's partly Mr. Coorlim's fault! After reading this, I had to drop everything and read all of his other novellas. Having done that, I can now say that I highly recommend reading his Steampunk Omnibus, which combines all of the previous novellas in chronological order, before reading March of the Cogsmen.

I do want to mention Coorlim's writing style. His stories are novellas because he writes succinctly. He gets straight to the point, which is both a blessing and a curse. He doesn't waste time describing mundane things, but at times it feels as though there could have been more development. The ending to March of the Cogsmen felt abrupt, for example, and I would have liked to have seen more. I don't think fans will be disappointed, however -- March of the Cogsmen is much longer than any of the novella stories, and it's exciting to the end.

I'm looking forward to see where he goes with this series.

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for a review.

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