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Ganymede – review

January 16, 2012

Ganymede is Cherie Priest‘s latest installment to her Clockwork Century chronicle, a series that began with the novel Boneshaker, then wound through Tanglefoot, Clementine, Dreadnought, and, I think, an anthologized story I haven’t read yet called Reluctance.

This is a series–which you don’t need to read sequentially–with some recurring characters but each story really focuses on a new character’s adventure. This works especially well as it’s a great way to tell the bigger story: an alternate history America in which the Civil War lasted longer and technological developments advanced differently. An accident in the frontier city of Seattle–a strange gas seeping up from below–has turned a few people into “rotters” (zombies.) The gas has been processed into a drug which is slowly, but steadily, turning more folks into rotters. Basically, the problem is spreading. This is a terrific conceit and Priest is doing some fine world-building with these stories. The slow advancement of such a problem over a vast American landscape allows for a lot of interesting adventures, but where these stories excel is in their focus on the characters, what they need to accomplish, and how their journey is complicated primarily by other characters and tertiarily–yeah, that’s the word I want to use–by these rotters gumming up the works. See, the focus is on the characters.

Josephine Early and Andan Cly are our two main point-of-view characters in Ganymede. Alternating chapters they get us through this adventure, which, in a nutshell, involves her hiring him to pilot a submarine down the last couple bends in the Mississippi River to a Union frigate that may or may not be waiting for them if they survive. The primary complication comes when the “Texian” occupiers put the beat down on the area’s rouge sky pirates, a clash which comes about after two Texian officers go missing under mysterious circumstances.

What happens is well described and the characters are interesting and I especially like the conceit and where this all might be going, but in several places Ganymede uses dialogue to tell us what’s going on instead of using narrative to show us, to the point where it pulls me out of sync with the novel. It felt rushed, but it won’t put me off reading her next installment–the story is simply too much fun.

Priest is a hard working writer with a steady output that includes another series of books and short stories popping up all over the place. She not only writes well, but she’s writing strong female leads in interesting stories, which is something we could use more of.


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