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Summer of Steampunk: Clockwork Mafia

Clockwork Mafia - Seleste deLaney

Due to a perfect storm of gin & tonics, cabin-visitation, and general slovenliness, I read roughly eleventy million pulp steampunk books this summer. Before they disappear into an undifferentiated stew of plucky scientist's daughters and clockwork corsets, I mean to write up just a little about each one.


Most of the titles I've read for my Summer of Steampunk come from the recommend feature at my public library, because I can't be arsed to do actual research or pay for anything. Now I love my library, but it's true that their database is terrible and the search function worse. Which is how come I came to read the second in a series without knowing that was the case. I think it's generally true that you have to read the first in any series, even if you then decide to skip around. So much important exposition -- especially when one is dealing with an alternate history -- takes place in the first, and then is assumed knowledge. While some of this can come down to the skill of the writer, I think we need to be realistic about our expectations when it comes to pulp. Which is my longwinded way of saying, this book was dumb and confusing in places, but some of that could be my fault for reading like a slob. 


The plot of Clockwork Mafia is fairly perfunctory. Like at least two other titles I read, the main character is a plucky middle class lady whose mad scientist father has just died. She, of  course, is also into the mad scientry, and evil Dickensian villains are now after either her or her dad's formula/device/whatnot. I did not understand the alternate history at all. Apparently, the East Coast is still some kind of British colony, complete with the peerage? But then there's a country in the Midwest which is run by some kind of bandit queen? Just, whatever. Main character girl somehow both works as a mechanic on a long haul airship and is a lady of society, and extremely silly false dichotomies pop up all over the place. Altogether, this book is below average.


But the cock-up involving book order ended up amusing me. It eventually becomes clear that no one from the first book likes this character: they think she's a two-faced social climber. Even though I didn't see any evidence of said duplicitous cattiness, the girl spends just an inordinate amount of time apologizing to the leads from the previous book. Before I figured out why this was the case -- book two! duh -- I thought the choice to make one of these cookie-cutter virgin ingenues apologize to everyone for just existing completely charming. Sorry I'm such a dishrag! Pardon my dreariness! That the leads from the other book appear to be violent sociopaths made me occasionally feel bad about her apologetics -- seriously, girl, those people are wack -- but not often enough to spoil my fun. I will not be reading the first to determine the exact psychosis of the original leads. 


Oh, and I was hugely disappointed that it wasn't a literal Clockwork Mafia, like one where automata are made up like stereotypical mobsters in zoot suits and pomade. I would read the shit out of that.