Jason Pettus's Reviews > Ganymede

Ganymede by Cherie Priest
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Nov 02, 11

bookshelves: contemporary, weird, sci-fi, personal-favorite, smart-nerdy, hipster
Read in November, 2011

(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Regular readers will of course already be familiar with Cherie Priest's remarkable steampunk series known as "The Clockwork Century;" back in 2009 I reviewed the first volume Boneshaker (best described as Victorian zombies meet Doom-style videogame in the bowels of subterranean Seattle), while last year I took on Dreadnought, in which we follow a souped-up locomotive as it winds its way across the Great Plains, deals with a now two-decade-long Civil War, and confronts giant iron military robots. And now we have the third novel in the series, Ganymede, which has yet another impossibly engaging hook to hold together its rambling plot: it's the story of this alt-history's very first submarine, built and lost by the Confederates, rediscovered by a black female brothel owner in New Orleans who secretly works for the Union, salvaged and piloted by a burly zeppelin owner whose usual job is shipping smuggled goods, and with the whole situation complicated by the Texas Republican Army, defiant pirate guerrillas, and shadowy Chinese entrepreneurs.

And indeed, as you can see, there's a good reason that a growing number of people are starting to call this perhaps the greatest steampunk series in the history of the genre*; and that's because with each volume, Priest squeezes in several novels' worth of flabbergasting ideas, making each story expansive as hell while still keeping a tight control over the three-act structure. (And please realize, by the way, that it's not just these three novels that make up this series, but also a handful of standalone stories and novellas, plus a comprehensive website.) One of my favorite genre novelists working today, and a fangirl who walks the walk just as well as her readers (her cosplay convention outfits are almost as famous as the books themselves), Ganymede comes with a strong recommendation, and is the exact kind of title for those who only read one steampunk book a year.

Out of 10: 9.0, or 10 for steampunk fans

*Well, okay, it's hard to beat the steampunk novel that started them all, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's The Difference Engine; but still.
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