Jan. 28th, 2012

Ganymede, the fourth installment in Priest's Clockwork Century series, may well mark a turning point in the setting of the series, both for Seattle and for the wider world.  Building on events in Dreadnought and Boneshaker, with possibly a reference to Clementine in there at the beginning.  Our main characters are the smuggler (or pirate, as the term seems to be in the Clockwork Century) Andan Cly and New Orleans madame Josephine Early, with Texas Ranger Horatio Korman reappearing along with Cly's crew.

The plot of Ganymede is relatively simple; Josephine, an old flame of Cly's, needs to hire him in order to get the submarine Ganymede to Union forces near New Orleans, which is held by the Republic of Texas on behalf of the Confederacy.  Complications, naturally, ensue, and there are two subplots; one to do with Cly's burgeoning relationship with Briar Wilkes, hero of Boneshaker, and his resultant plans to settle in Seattle, and the other to do with the increasing menace of the zombis in New Orleans - those affected by the gas found in Seattle; and it's this plot which returns Ranger Korman to the fray, trying to prove to his Texas superiors that the zombies are real.  The plot is mixed; there are a number of points when it moves fast, although those can move towards repetitiveness - and a certain uneventful repetitiveness too, both in the faster and slower-moving portions.  However, the faster moments are well-placed and well-paced, without losing focus or control, and with a certain stylish power to them; and the slower moments are also well-written, the romantic elements thoughtful and not overplayed, the more suspenseful moments not overblown or overplayed but adding a lot to the narrative.  The subplots don't always play the obvious role - the zombis especially being a matter of convenience, not logic, in their use, and some of the references to Cly's wish to settle down feel gratuitous, but overall it works well, and the Ganymede's role in the novel is well controlled, to bring multiple elements together.

The characters of Ganymede are perhaps the strongest point of the novel; Ranger Korman, Andan Cly and his crew we know, but Josephine Early and her employees are new, as is her brother Deaderick; and, unsurprisingly, they're all excellent characters.  Josephine continues the line of strong women that Priest seems to like (alongside the Clockwork Century, each installment of which has a strong female hero leading the case, we have Eden Moore and the Cheshire Red Reports series, both female-focused); she's thoughtfully written, with a combination of her racial politics and her care for the women who work for her making her a powerful figure whose motivations are complicated by her love for her brother.  The majority of the cast are equally interesting; they're not simple characters, but rather, people whose motivations can't be pinned down to one thing, and who have thoughts of their own, and influence the plot in well-thought out ways.

Overall, then, whilst Ganymede, like the other installments of the Clockwork Century, has its flaws, Priest does seem to be improving over time, and this is a fun, enjoyable and well-written story.

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February 2012

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