(I Also Write Children's Books!)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review: Whitechapel Gods

So, as a writer, apparently it behooves me to review the books I read!  Of course, the hooves are specifically for the dark horse independent books, but what's good for the pony is good for the clydesdale and if I review independents, I should review mainstreams.

Which leaves me having just (for a given value of 'just') read Whitechapel Gods by S.M.Peters.  I'm going to give it five stars on Amazon, no question.  My enjoyment was fulsome and invigorating.

For those wondering if they should read it, I'll summarize the theme, but not the story:  Victorian Whitechapel is in the grip of two mechanical gods, Mama Engine and Grandfather Clock.  These steampunk deities are not fanciful or pretty.  They are corrupting, merciless, and alien, grinding up humanity in the gears of the new world they're creating or, worse, loving us to death.  The story follows British Crown spies, mutated revolutionaries, a psychotic ex-whore, and an Oliver Twist Fagin figure of diabolic evil.  It is, as it sounds, a moderately dark book with few survivors and much blood and oil spilled.  On the other hand, it nowhere tries to be depressing, just rough.  That fit very well with me.

Technically, I was very pleased and mildly impressed.  This is relevant, because my professional standards are brutally high.  The bizarro world of steampunk Whitechapel is immersive and believable.  You are dropped straight into it with damn few explanations of anything and forced to cope, which puts you well into the mindset of the main characters.  The PoV switches around at a carefully measured pace, giving you empathy with all the major characters without being disruptive to immersion.  Descriptive text is vivid without being purple, and just specific enough to make you fill in the details in your imagination.  The story was tight, and I was particularly impressed how Peters included several points where the good guys seem to fail, but keeps the story dragging by immediately switching PoVs to show that the fight is not over and move you straight into the tension of the next plot arc.  Good stuff.

I have one single complaint, and it's quite minor.  The descriptive text, so excellent in Whitechapel itself, is too nonspecific in what I will call the 'mystical' sections of the book.  Those are very brief, but I found the action hard to follow during those scenes.

All in all, a great book, and one of a very unusual style that suits me well.  S. M. Peters is a skilled author and I'm now making a note to see what else he's written.

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