Sunday, October 12, 2014

"The Sunken" by S. C. Green

The Sunken
(Engine Ward Book 1)
by S. C. Green

The Sunken is currently on tour with Enchanted Book Promotions. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

In the heart of London lies the Engine Ward, a district forged in coal and steam, where the great Engineering Sects vie for ultimate control of the country. For many, the Ward is a forbidding, desolate place, but for Nicholas Thorne, the Ward is a refuge. He has returned to London under a cloud of shadow to work for his childhood friend, the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Deep in the Ward's bowels, Nicholas can finally escape his strange affliction – the thoughts of animals that crowd his head. But seeing Brunel interact with his mechanical creations, Nicholas is increasingly concerned that his friend may be succumbing to the allure of his growing power. That power isn't easily cast aside, and the people of London need Brunel to protect the streets from the prehistoric monsters that roam the city.
King George III has approved Brunel's ambitious plan to erect a Wall that would shut out the swamp dragons and protect the city. But in secret, the King cultivates an army of Sunken: men twisted into flesh-eating monsters by a thirst for blood and lead. Only Nicholas and Brunel suspect that something is wrong, that the Wall might play into a more sinister purpose - to keep the people of London trapped inside.

The furnace was unlit; the only light a faint glow from an Argand lamp in Aaron's hand. He squinted at his friend in the darkness, saw his face set into a stony expression.
"Isambard was just informing me of his secret project," Aaron said, his tone even.
"You're building the London railway?" asked Nicholas.
"The King wants you to build a railway in London? Isambard, this is—"
"Amazing. Miraculous, Incomprehensible, I know!" Isambard's excitement filled the room. "It's only a small section of track, but it's a start. He wants me to build a railway from Windsor Castle into Buckingham House. It will be the first railway inside the city. Apart from the first mile of track across the castle grounds, the entire railway will be underground. And it must be built in four months."
"That's preposterous!" Aaron said. "You've only built one railway before, and that hardly stretched a mile, and it took a lot longer than four months."
"Especially not when work on the Wall begins next week," added Nicholas. "That too shares that same impossible deadline, and since it stretches outside the Ward and will be in full view of the public, the Stokers are not permitted to work on it. Where are we going to find men?"
"I am aware of both these issues. That's why I've been holed up in here for the last three days, trying to come up with a solution. Now that you're both here, I can show you what I've created."
Brunel reached over and, with fingers that seemed unusually cold as they brushed Nicholas' arm, pushed the light toward the far corner of the room. There stood two machines that made Nicholas recoil in fright.
"What is that?" Aaron demanded.
"You can approach them." Brunel grabbed Nicholas by the shoulders and dragged him across the room.
"They look so—so—"
"I know. Aren’t they beautiful?" Brunel reached out and stroked the belly of one of the machines, angling the light to give Nicholas and Aaron a better view. "I call them my Boilers. They will revolutionise the manufacturing process."
Each Boiler stood a little higher than Brunel — round furnace bellies balanced on metal skids, with a complex labyrinth of wheels, tubes and gauges protruding from the top. Their shape appeared too natural, too human, to be made of iron, but iron they were, and ingeniously designed. Clawlike limbs extended from the furnace body, and where one would expect a head, Brunel had given each a double chimney. More dials and gauges protruded from the rear of the furnace, and Nicholas recognised some of the controls from Brunel's steam locomotive designs — a regulator, a water glass. Obviously prototypes, the metal was rough, unfinished, but Nicholas immediately grasped the basic idea.
"They’re … workers?"
Brunel nodded. "There aren’t men enough in England to finish the railway and Wall as soon as the King wants them, but with machines to work day and night, and men like Aaron to run them, we can do it. These are just prototypes, of course, but fifty units are being finished in the workshops as we speak. I plan to have the first Boiler workgang operational by the end of the week. Watch."
He opened the furnace of the nearest one and stoked it up. It spluttered to life, churning steam from its double chimney. Brunel worked the controls from behind the Boiler, stepping aside when it lurched forward. Aaron stumbled back, tripping over Nicholas as the Boiler barrelled toward them, claws outstretched, steam billowing from its mechanical neck.
Panicked, Nicholas rolled out of the Boiler's path, dragging Aaron back with him. But the Boiler wasn't after them. It tore straight past Nicholas and picked up a length of pipe from the bench behind him. Holding the pipe in its clawed hands, it bent the length into a perfect U, fitted a pressure gauge on the end, then fitted it to another pipe protruding from the wall, tightened the whole apparatus, and stood back, awaiting its next instruction.
"See?" Brunel clapped his hands together. "The Boiler will repeat that task, again and again, until he is given new instructions. Aren't they the most amazing invention that ever your eyes did see?"

Featured Review
Be aware - this is not a book you can casually read. I found out very quickly that if I wasn’t paying attention for a paragraph or two, I would not understand what is going on. The author throws you into alternate version of London so thoroughly, and so swiftly, that I would say this is both a positive and a negative. Positive in that my attention is entirely in her story, negative that at the beginning I had a bit trouble understanding the world the characters were in.
The author has built a complex and engaging alternate timeline, and I was fascinated. The country has outlawed Christianity, and now there are engineering religions. Science and religion has merged, and I thought the handling of the topic was tastefully done.
I cannot remember the last time I read a book and I was so uncertain on who was a ‘good guy’. I would electronically turn one more page because I needed to know who was telling the truth and who was letting the power get to their head! Upon finishing the book I sat back and realized, for the main characters, I would argue there was no character development. Instead, the author establishes from the beginning the kind of men the main characters are, and throughout the book you see them react to situations based on their nature.
The Sunken is an intelligently written book with dragons, a mad king, a blind physician, and zombie like creatures all set in a steampunk world. The only thing I found disappointing was the female characters were shadows of characters. I hope to see them further fleshed out in later books. While I am left wondering if one of my theories was correct, the book has a solid ending and I look forward to the next in the series.

About the Author
S. C. (Steff) Green lives in an off-grid house on a slice of rural paradise near Auckland, New Zealand, with her cantankerous drummer husband, their two cats, and their medieval sword collection. The first CD she ever brought was Metallica's "Ride the Lightning", and she's been a card-carrying member of the black-t-shirt brigade ever since.
Steff writes about metal music, her books, living off-grid, and her adventures with home-brewing on her blog. She writes humorous fantasy under the name Steff Metal, and dark, dystopian fantasy under S. C. Green. Her latest novel, The Sunken, explores an alternative Georgian London where dinosaurs still survive.
Stay up to date with Steff's books by signing up to her newsletter, or like her Facebook page.

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