Ah, Steampunk, it has been too long.
For those who don't know, the official definition for the steampunk genre goes like this:
"A subgenre of science fiction (or science fantasy) that incorporates themes and motifs from the 19th century's steam-powered industry and designs, set either in an alternate version of the Victorian era or a post-apocalyptic future in which steam is the main source of power. Common themes include exploration and industry."
Now, compare that to the majority of popular books categorized as steampunk right now. I've been searching around for something to read in this genre for quite a while and an awful lot of it seems to be lacking in the science fiction department. It's one of the reasons it's been so long since I've read the genre; the most steampunk thing about a lot of these is the cover.
Well, I'm happy to report that Free-Wrench by Joseph R. Lallo delivers on the genre it promises with that gorgeous cover and intriguing blurb!
In the world of Free-Wrench, an apocalyptic event known only as 'The Calamity' took place a long time ago, where a creepy violet fog, known only as 'The Fug' engulfed much of the continents, rendering a large part of the planet uninhabitable, and there it stayed. What's left of humanity formed some small countries that have managed to find areas untouched by this Fug, and built around it, using what plants and animals weren't killed off to sustain themselves and trading in goods. Airships and the like are the main mode of transportation.
Enter Amanita (or Nita) Graus. She has lived her whole life on a small country made up of a collection of tiny volcanic islands called Caldera. These islands are clean of the Fug, being one of the few areas never to be touched by it. Long ago, the Calderans decided to isolate themselves from the rest of the planet, so as to keep themselves separate from the rest of the worlds problems. Instead, the Calderans focus their energy on art and creativity in all things. It's a peaceful life, but also means they don't have access to the same medicine the rest of the world has. Medicine like Nita's mother needs desperately.
And so Nita, who was always more mechanically inclined than artistic anyway, joins up with a rag-tag crew of sky traders to make the dangerous journey from the only home she's ever known to visit the people known as the Fug-Folk; the mysterious people who have adapted to living in the Fug, despite how dangerous it is to everyone else. Cold, creepy, and possibly clairvoyant, they run the global trade market, and now they're Nita's only hope.
If I had one complaint, it would be that sometimes the writing relied too much on the dialogue to communicate what the character was feeling or how they were acting instead of describing those actions. It took me out of the story a few times. Still, I really enjoyed this and I will definitely be continuing the series in the future.
(review of free book)