The fourth installment in Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century Series, Ganymede, is also the most intense. With Union spies, a Confederate-occupied New Orleans, airship pirates, murder most foul, ladies of the evening, an enormous death-trap of a machine, and plenty of zombies, Ganymede keeps its readers hushed and frantically flipping the page for more.
Ganymede by Cherie Priest will be released by Tor Books this Tuesday, September 27th.
Ganymede continues the story of Andan Cly, who we first met in Priest’s Boneshaker. The outlaw airship captain is trying to go straight, ceasing his drug-running activities and settling down with his own business in the zombie-infested city of Seattle. But in order to make his retirement plan a reality, he has to do one last job, in New Orleans of all places. There he joins forces with his old flame, Josephine Early, the madame of an upscale New Orleans brothel and a redoubtable Union spy. Much like Boneshaker, the narration switches off between the two main characters, giving a broad view of the world of Priest’s alernate-history steampunk Civil War.
All the novels of the Clockwork Century are loosely connected by characters and vast continental events. Ganymede is no different, and fans of the series will get to see some of their favorite characters reappear briefly on the page to play small but vital roles in this latest adventure. Briar Wilkes, Zeke Wilkes, Mercy Lynch, Jeremiah Swakhammer, and Texas Ranger Horatio Korman all have a part to play.
New Orleans is occupied by the Texians (who are allied with the Confederates) during an American Civil War that has lasted for more than twenty years. Josephine and her Union allies will do anything to end the war, and it is with this goal that Josephine’s brother Deaderick Early and his men steal the Ganymede, a prototype submarine designed by the Confederates. The machine could effectively end the blockade on New Orleans and then, the war. The only problem: No one can pilot theGanymede, and everyone who tries… dies.
Enter Captain Andan Cly. Josephine hires Cly to pilot the Ganymede, believing that an airship pilot will understand the workings of the strange craft better than a sailor. Thus Cly and his crew leave Seattle, flying across the country to New Orleans, where they discover a disturbing menace: The zombies who originated from the Blight gas in Seattle are harrying the docks of New Orleans. How did the zombies get there? And can the deadly scourge be stopped before it spreads any more?
With a colorful cast of pirates, spies, guerrilla fighters, and Texians, Ganymede also includes a few historical figures from late 19th-Century New Orleans. The descendents of the infamous pirate king Jean Lafitte are mentioned frequently, as they still maintain their illegal activities in Barataria Bay. And Marie Laveau, known as the Voo-Doo Queen of New Orleans, plays a role in solving the mystery of the zombies in New Orleans.
But the real stand-out characters are Josephine Early and the ladies of her brothel. Anyone who has read a Cherie Priest novel knows the author has a penchant for creating interesting, strong, capable women characters. Early and her subordinants (all spies posing as courtesans) are no different. You’ll get no fainting violets or damsels in distress inGanymede. Instead, you get a shrewd, pistol-packing mulatto woman who would rather die than live under a government that legalizes slavery. Josephine Early kicks ass, while still maintaining her nurturing side and feminine allure.
And of course, there’s the delicious essence of steampunk over everything. The Texians patrol the streets of New Orleans in mechanized “crawlers” of brass and diesel, while elaborate mirrors are used to camouflage the guerillas’ hide-out in the bayou. Everyone is packing an exquisite firearm with a sophisticated name, and much time is spent over the finer points of both zeppelins and the prototype submarine.
The intensity of Ganymede comes from the precarious position of Josephine and her ladies; Andan Cly and his crew; and the guerilla fighters led by Josephine’s brother Deaderick. If they are caught, they could all be hung as spies. And hiding an enormous steampunk submarine in the bayou of Louisiana is no easy task. There are several tense moments that seem to stretch on for ages as our heroes sneak about in the dark, avoiding Texians, Confederates, alligators, and zombies alike. Rather than slowing down the pacing, these tense clandestine operations make the reader squirm with worry for the inevitable betrayal or mistake, and flip the pages faster to make sure all ends well.
The final operation (actually transporting the Ganymede out of the Confederacy and safely to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico) is fraught with peril, and seemingly nothing goes according to plan. During their delicate operation right under the nose of the enemy, the guerillas have to contend with a firefight not far away. Barataria Bay, the pirate stronghold, has been attacked by the Texians. Now Andan Cly must make a choice: Does he pilot the Ganymede to the Gulf according to plan, or abandon all safety and rush to the aid of his fellow unlicensed tradesmen?
If you’re already hooked on Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century Series, then you’ve really no reason not to read Ganymede. While set in the same world as Boneshaker, Dreadnought, and Clementine, Ganymede has a slightly different flavor. Instead of the break-neck speed and danger of Dreadnought, Ganymede‘s excitement comes from the precarious position of its spy of a leading lady, and the seeming impossibility of her mission. The rich setting of 19th-Century New Orleans is as gorgeously illustrated as its characters.
I give this steampunk, zombie, voodoo, alternate history adventure a solid A.
Stay informed, stay alive: You can pick up a copy of Cherie Priest’s Ganymede at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in downtown Denver. While you’re there, look for Priest’s other novels of the Clockwork Century: Boneshaker, Dreadnought, and Clementine. Priest’s next Clockwork Century novel,Ganymede, will be released on September 27, 2011. Visit Cherie Priest’s website for more information.
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