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Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl Paperback – September 10, 2013
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The year is 1889. The place is an alternative world where the U.S. has lost the Revolutionary War; the East Coast is controlled by Great Britain and the West Coast by Spain. The characters are searching for answers to a dangerous mystery. Gideon Smith is a young, grief-stricken, and incredibly naive man who will stop at nothing to find the mysterious being that dragged his father, a fisherman, and his father’s crew into the dark sea one foggy morning. Bram Stoker is seeking material for his first book (yes, the Bram Stoker), only to discover several corpses completely drained of blood. Wondering how both horrific encounters are connected keeps the reader turning page after page. Although some early parts of the story are not well developed and some characters are flat, the latter half of the book more than makes up for the story’s rocky start with twists, turns, humor, and adventure. In the end, Barnett’s new book proves to be a worthy addition to the steampunk genre. --Alison Downs
“A triumph of the modern pulp genre. Funny, clever and superbly executed…I guarantee you'll have fun as you breeze through this first adventure of Gideon Smith, and I commend it to you all. I'm already anxious for the next one.” ―George Mann, author of The Immortality Engine
“A great-hearted, rollicking romp through the many worlds of classic pulp--loads of fun.” ―Nick Harkaway, author of The Gone-Away World and Angelmaker
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The story and characters were enjoyable. I had a bit of an issue with the ending (Smith's actions didn't make sense) and Bent started to get to on my effing nerves a bit . I would have liked to have been introduced to the steampunk world earlier on. Aside from the title, there's no real indication the setting is anything more than a true Victorian era until about a quarter of the way in.
I'd like to read the next book, however, if the formatting issues continue, I doubt I'll pick it up.
Still it was a fun read and I'll be picking up the sequel when it comes out.
Poor little Annie Crook became involved with the wrong man. In Victorian times, whether they be in alternate or our history, the rabble risked much if they caught the attention of the upper class. Yet, sometimes, the rabble manages to surprise. Young Annie is one of the voices David Barnett introduces us to in Mechanical Girl.
"At first, he thought the knocking was a gear slipping, or one of the spring wearing. He sat up in the chair, suddenly alert, and peered around. "Anybody else hear that?"
Arthur frowned. There it went again. He stood and walked to the port side. Probably a piece of driftwood or rubbish hauled over the side from one of the factory farms. He leaned over and looked at the black, oily water."
Lives of trawler-fishers are dangerous one. In the past, more so. Usually, lives are lost because of the ocean's wiles, but for Arthur Smith the cause of death of was much more sinister. Left behind is 24-year-old Gideon Smith (our main protagonist). To him Sandsend seems like the end of the earth and he wants nothing more than to leave it behind and experience the adventures he reads about in World Marvels & Wonders.
To have his father's death be the impetus for his investigation was not how Gideon thought his adventure would begin. Investigate he must, for there is something distinctly off about the disappearance of the crew of the Cold Drake. Anger can be a marvelous tool when we suspect something needs fixing. Anger at our gods, the fickleness of nature, people dying and leaving us behind and even at our own fears are all angers that can prompt action and change. Gideon is an angry man, and rightly so. Life in Victorian times (both alternate world and our) was unfair. It still is. Being wealthy makes life easier to navigate while poverty keeps people in their place. Annie was certainly kept in her place. Now Gideon has to find a way to leave his and investigate and explore.
Which is why he goes seeking Captain Trigger, that wonderful hero of the penny dreadfuls. Such a hero must see that Gideon's cause is worth pursuing (taking Gideon with him). Getting hold of Captain Trigger proves difficult and Gideon must seek help. Who should turn up but Bram Stoker. Yes, that one. David Barnett throws conspiracies and magical names at us through the story. We just have to pay attention to where we are going.
Once Bram becomes involved, officials finally pay attention to Gideon's worry about a smuggler's cave. Stoker is just higher enough on the layers of society for him to be taken more seriously than Gideon. Let's face it. That is the way the world works. I am taken more seriously than a homeless person. My husband is taken more seriously than I. Writing about inequality in a manner that is fun to read is something Barnett does well. Intended or unintended.
In the end, Gideon gets to meet Captain Trigger, a meeting that changes both men. Gideon also meets wonderful and strange Maria. As he and Maria get closer to an answer to both of their questions, stranger and stranger creatures turn up. Conspiracy indeed.
I had fun. Lots of fun reading "Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl". Definitely recommended.
As soon as you think, "Ah, ok, I know what's going to happen next," well, (delightfully!) you don't. It twists and turns. This is not our world (for one thing, part of the United States is still a British colony), and it's not the same not-our-world you think it is, either. The mystery keeps unraveling, page by page. Adding to the fun is a bounty of easter eggs for pulp fans - see if you can spot the famous fictional archaeologists and real-life science heroes on first read-through. Barnett's got that precious combination of storytelling chops and an encyclopedic knowledge of genre. The new characters are every bit as real and familiar as the old standbys, and the challenges they face are just as hair-raising as any imagined by Arthur Conan Doyle, M.R. James or Edgar Rice Burroughs.
The only downside is that you'll be left wanting more. What other terrors and wonders are hiding in the unexplored corners of this strange, old world? There has to be a sequel, doesn't there? Gideon Smith, the plucky young fisherman's son embroiled in an international web of intrigue and adventure... well, I think he can stand proudly alongside Doc Savage and Allan Quatermain any day of the week. Give us another!
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After the first chapters I could barely retain myself from clapping my hands in joy, bouncing up and down.Read more