- Paperback: 266 pages
- Publisher: Misenchanted Press (November 16, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1619910098
- ISBN-13: 978-1619910096
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,398,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Tom Derringer and the Aluminum Airship Paperback – November 16, 2014
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About the Author
Lawrence Watt-Evans is the Hugo-winning author of more than forty novels -- fantasy, science fiction, and horror -- and over a hundred short stories.
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Somewhat spoilery real review:
This is what Jules Verne might have written if he'd grown up in America, and then had the opportunity to come forward in time and write now. There is much of Verne in the setting and language, and indeed the very setup is reminiscent of many similar events in Verne's various works.
At the same time, Lawrence Watt-Evans avoids the pitfalls of Verne from the modern view -- the too-tedious detailing of every item and scientific fact, the too-common diversions in the narrator's thoughts, which reduce the impact of events at times for a modern reader unused to these older habits of literary fiction.
Tom Derringer discovers his father's journals, and discovers that his father was a celebrated adventurer -- in an alternate past in which "adventurer" is a recognized avocation of both respect and concern in the late 1800s. These are adventurers of the true pulp tradition -- delving into forbidden territories, discovering lost cities and stopping mad scientists, explorers and treasure-hunters and heroes all in one. Tom cannot help be drawn by the fascination of his father's many adventures, and soon decides that he, too, wants to become an adventurer.
The first surprise, for those accustomed to the older stories of this sort, is to see that his mother, while worried, will not stop him -- but instead will help him gain the training he needs to become an adventurer who might survive, rather than die in a blaze of ill-considered glory; trained he is, for years, until at the age of 16, he sets out upon his first adventure -- tracking down a mysterious flying object which is an airship made of the impossibly rare and expensive metal aluminum.
Tom is just a joy to follow along with as a reader. His training and background have combined to make him simultaneously more mature than his years, and more innocent than almost everyone he encounters. The combination turns out to be a formidable weapon; he often can use his guileless approach to disarm others' suspicions or, at the least, confuse them into taking different actions than they might have otherwise taken. He has the typical teenager's blithe acceptance of his own invulnerability, which leads him to sometimes forget that fear is a useful warning. But overall he is skilled enough and determined enough to make it through challenges that would daunt, or even defeat, far older men.
His companion on most of the adventure, Miss Vanderhart, is similarly self-possessed and skillful; she is Tom's superior in technological areas, able to kitbash up a primitive aqualung in the middle of a jungle with nothing but a few pieces of wreckage and her belt of tools. While there are gentle hints of romance, the story does not focus on this and in fact it is more hinted at through avoidance than anything else.
I *love* this kind of stuff. In a way, this reminded me of another recent pulp-novel entry, Harry Connolly's _King Khan_. I can in a way imagine the latter occurring in the moderate future of Tom Derringer, although it appears that the pulp science is even more extreme there than in the world of Tom Derringer; still, Tom explicitly mentions things like lizard-men, Shangri-La, mystic temples, and so on.
Tom's world isn't ours; it's clearly an alternate American history, where the world is a stranger, wilder place, a place that needs trouble-shooters -- and that is what the adventurers are for.
The novel ends with an obvious lead-in for another novel, and I very much look forward to seeing any sequels!
Tom Derringer decides he wants to be an adventurer like his late father. He devotes his life to this purpose, getting training in numerous areas which would help an adventurer be successful. That could have been interesting. But rather than getting involved in the training we just get informed that he had it, which gives no insight to his character or his training. And exactly how does that training appear in the adventure? Well, it doesn't. Apparently he studied some languages, but none that would be useful on his trip.
This seems to be a story about how to NOT be an adventurer as he stumbles along wasting vast amount of money and accomplishing nothing. For example, he takes the train to purchase a flying machine (balloon), using up much of his inheritance in the process, so that he can pursue what he thinks is a much better version owned by someone else. He moves the machine by train to a distant location, has it reassembled, and then continues on his way. But he has to hire a land crew to follow the balloon underneath to keep it equipped. When he finally reaches the other dirigible, it is immediately shot down. If he had used horses and perhaps a boat he would have got there faster and would not be out a small fortune and would have accomplished just as much.
The villain is never fully fleshed out either, and when he finally makes a personal appearance he is shot dead before we learn much about him.
If this book had been shortened to one chapter as the beginning of a story about an incompetent adventurer, it might have worked.
Set in the late 1800s, this book begins the story of one Tom Derringer, who at an early age discovers from this mother that his father had been an Adventurer....righting wrongs, saving damsels, fighting the bad guys, finding the lost treasures. Tom decides he too wishes to become an Adventurer and spends the next few years training to be just that.
THIS book finds him unexpectedly propelled into his first Adventure, as a visit to his father's haunts in New York leads to a strange story about a "flying mountain" spotted out west. Intrigued, he buys a small airship from an ecentric inventor who himself has a bit of a background and sets out in pursuit.
This was a GREAT book, fast-paced and with nary a wasted word. Derringer is a fascinating character who we want to know more about, and the situations are all perfectly plausible for an adventure-style novel. The book seems to be aimed at the juvenile market which MIGHT turn some folks off; I simply found it a selling point.
HIGHLY recommended if youu're a Lawrence Watt Evans fan at all, or if you like solid slightly-aimed-to-juveniles action/adventure. I sure hope he writes more.