Waterloo English graduate Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. has published the second novel in his series The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin, titled Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War . I’ve shamelessly poached the Booklist review of the first in the series.
“What a glorious novel! What a glorious, steam-filled, larger-than-life, action-packed adventure! Set in the future, about three centuries after an alien attack devastated planet Earth, the tale involves the crew of a steam-powered airship, the Pneumatic Zeppelin, led by the brave Romulus Buckle, mounting a mission to rescue the head of their clan, Balthazar Crankshaft, from the clutches of the mysterious and dangerous Founders, who have kidnapped several clan leaders for their own nefarious purposes. Preston creates a fully realized world, lavishing description on the airship’s mechanical accoutrements (“ . . . panel after panel of ornate levers, cranks, and knobs that spread out like a gigantic church organ, an elegant riot of vacuum tubes, steam switches, quicksilver instruments, brass gauges, and copper dials”) and on its crew (Romulus Buckle: “a tree-tall fellow, six feet and a couple of caterpillar lengths more if he was an inch, his cheeks and chin scruffed with whiskers the color of sand dunes, in ample quantities for a man of the ripe old age of eighteen”). Suitable for adult and young-adult readers, the book is like an old-fashioned movie serial—one crisis after another—and Preston definitely isn’t afraid of asking us to believe the unbelievable (even the most ardent steampunk fan would probably admit that a hydrogen-filled airship, powered by steam-generated flaming boilers, stretches the imagination a bit). Steampunk doesn’t get much more exciting, or more adventurous, than this. The book is the first of a proposed series, and the second installment can’t come soon enough.— David Pitt (Booklist starred review, 15 May 2013 Issue)