In many ways, Escapement is a better book than its predecessor, Mainspring. Mainspring focused on the protagonist Hethor, who is the type of messianic...moreIn many ways, Escapement is a better book than its predecessor, Mainspring. Mainspring focused on the protagonist Hethor, who is the type of messianic hero common to this type of fantasy/sf bildungsroman: a socially isolated but intelligent young man who is thrust into a mission to save the world. He of course, does so, in the process earning the four essential marks of manhood: self-reliance, authority over others, physical prowess, and sexual experience. The setting in Mainspring was brilliantly imaginative, but as I leave my 20s behind me, I realize I don't give a toss about coming-of-age stories anymore, so I was less impressed with a plot and character arc I've read so many times already.
Escapement returns us to Lake's fantastic setting, but through the eyes of three characters this time, two of whom had brief roles in Mainspring. These two are more interesting, Head Librarian Emily Childress, a sexagenarian thrust into the first adventure of her life, and Threadgill Al-Wazir, Scottish-Arab airship sailor of the Royal Navy, sent as part of a British Imperial mission to drill through the Equatorial Wall girding the Earth. The stories of two seasoned professionals, perhaps on the verge of retirement, forced into active duty again, but into the unfamiliar terrain of geopolitical engagement and shadow conflicts between secret societies, was extremely compelling.
The third is Paolina Barthes, for whom another coming-of-age story plays out, this time the distaff version. Paolina's tale is far more interesting than Hethor's, as the latter was basically following a trail of breadcrumbs God had left for him, while Paolina seems a far more active agent in her own destiny. She does come across as a Marion Zimmer Bradley heroine at times, railing against patriarchy at every turn (Lake's alternate version of the Victorian Era seems *more* patriarchal than ours in the real world. It would have been interesting to explore the reasons further. Maybe in the next book.)
The book's main weakness is that it's a bridge. Figuratively, it's a sequel that's setting up for another sequel, and thus suffers from all the weaknesses of similar books like The Two Towers or Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix--a whole lot of moving pieces on the chessboard but not being allowed to checkmate. Literally, however, it deals with the attempts by both the British and Chinese Empires to build a bridge to the other half of the world, presumably to continue their colonial games on virgin soil, while our heroes try to prevent it.
All that said, Lake greatly expands the setting that is his main attraction, and thickens the plot nicely. I'm eagerly awaiting the next book.(less)
Fairly straightforward steampunk: we have zombies, automatons, a mysterious ghost policeman, zeppelins, and a high-action mystery plot. Our two protag...moreFairly straightforward steampunk: we have zombies, automatons, a mysterious ghost policeman, zeppelins, and a high-action mystery plot. Our two protagonists are an erudite man of letters and action and his attractive, intelligent and athletic female assistant--kind of like a fin-de-siecle John Steed and Emma Peel.
Not particularly original or groundbreaking, but a very fun read. Good way to entertain yourself for several hours, and the plots are all nicely tied together. (less)
Basically this book fuses the (hopefully waning) paranormal romance genre with the rising steampunk genre, to mostly good effect. This unusual twist m...moreBasically this book fuses the (hopefully waning) paranormal romance genre with the rising steampunk genre, to mostly good effect. This unusual twist means it avoids being a storm of cliches like, say, The Affinity Bridge. The romance, the supporting characters and some of the setting details are the strengths of the book, mostly distracting you from the silly plot and the incompetence of the protagonists. The main characters spend so much of the book stumbling over the plot and their blossoming relationship, that the antagonists literally have to bind and gag them to get them back on track.
That said, I liked most of the characters and find the setting intriguing, and am looking forward to the sequel. (less)