Saturday, November 17, 2012

Review: Cuttlefish - Dave Freer

Cuttlefish by Dave Freer
Series: Cuttlefish #1
Genre: YA, alternate history, steampunk
Published on July 26, 2012
Published by Pyr
Pages: 299
Read From: 10.27.12 - 11.1.12

The year is 1953, and the British Empire still spans the globe. Coal drives the world, and the smog of it hands over the canals of London. 

Clara Calland is on the run. Hunted, along with her scientist mother, by Menshevik spies and Imperial soldiers, they flee Ireland for London. They must escape airships, treachery, and capture. Under flooded London's canals, they join the rebels who live in their dark tunnels there. 
Tim Barnabas is one of the Underpeople, born to the secret town of drowned London, which is inhabited by anti-Imperialist republicans and Irish rebels, part of the Liberty - the people who would see a return to older values and free elections. Seeing no farther than his next meal, Tim has hired on as a submariner on the Cuttlefish, a coal-fired submarine that runs smuggled cargoes beneath the steamship patrols, to the fortress America and beyond. 
When the Imperial soldiery comes ravening, Clara and her mother are forced to flee aboard the Cuttlefish. Hunted like beasts, the submarine and her crew must undertake a desperate voyage across the world, from the Faroes to the Caribbean and finally across the Pacific to find safety. But only Clara and Tim can steer them past treachery and disaster, to freedom in Westralia. Carried with them - a lost scientific secret that threatens the very heart of Imperial power.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Honestly, no. For on thing, there’s what I am not calling “character impersonators” on the front, which I have never liked. It always spoils my own imaginings of what the characters look like. And for another, despite the awesome sail/submarine, the cover makes me a little bored.

Characters: I like that Clara, Protagonist No. 1, is as adventurous as she is. In an adventure story, it’s always good to have an adventurous protagonist. And Clara is astonishingly useful. But she also has a feminist attitude, and her crush on Tim gets very old. Tim, Protagonist No. 2, is also pretty acceptable. He’s not as adventurous as Clara, but he does what needs to be done, and he also demonstrates quite a bit of usefulness. But, his harping on people not liking him because he’s black gets old (we got it the first time), and his crush on Clara is annoying after a time as well. The rest of the characters didn’t make much of an impression on me either way. They were different enough from each other to be easily remembered, and they came across as very realistic, very human characters, but there was nothing particularly special about them that stood out, either.

The Romance: While the story doesn’t spend a whole lot of time on Clara and Tim’s mutual attraction, it spends enough time that it got annoying. Authors seem to think that a boy and girl are not capable of being just really good friends. The romance was not needed - there is no reason on Earth why they couldn‘t have just been friends, - and it did at times threaten to slow the story down.

Plot: The plot itself was interesting: a scientist on the run from several governments because of a discovery they made, a world of coal-powered submarines and water - awesome! But there were several flaws with presentation. For one, I thought the whole premise for why the world was covered in water - Global Warming - was just lame, and felt like an interjection of personal opinion. Can we please have an adventure story without the political agenda? The other flaws were: the Author waited until well over half the book was finished to explain exactly how it is Great Britain maintained its hold on the rest of the world. Even so, you have to read the Author’s Note at the end to fully grasp the world’s political situation, and even that didn’t make much sense.

Believability: I’ll give the Author tremendous points for his submarine, the Cuttlefish. It was entirely believable, and absolutely awesome. He clearly spent a lot of time designing it, and I applaud an Author who wants a plausible working contraption in his story, and not just something he cobbled together and then said, “Hey, it’s fiction; in this world, it works.” One aspect that made me cock an eyebrow in doubt was how readily Captain Malkis dismissed the idea of a spy on board his vessel. Even if the suggestion was coming from a couple of kids, I think the Captain would have taken into consideration.

Writing Style: I enjoyed the Author’s descriptions of the submarine, which were actually very easy to follow and understand. The rest of the writing was so-so, and the Author used “. . .” in very odd places. At the beginning of dialogue, at the end, in the middle, in the middle of the middle. And rarely did he use it because a character had trailed off in mid-sentence, or another character was butting in, or they were musing. It was just there.

Content: None.

Conclusion: Even for having a sequel, the end was very abrupt. But the climax was exciting. As a whole, I enjoyed the story’s adventure and the submarine - who wouldn’t love the submarine? It completely makes the book. But the world’s politics were not made very clear, the whole Great Melt was just lame, and the protagonists were not the world’s greatest. Still, the adventure makes it worth it.

Recommended Audience: Steampunkers, girl-and-guy read, fifteen and up.

Others in This Series:
2)The Steam Mole

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