CLASSIFICATION: The Clockwork Century series is set in an alternate history America circa 1880, flavored with elements of steampunk, horror, intrigue, and Western pulp.
FORMAT/INFO: Ganymede is 352 pages long divided over 17 numbered chapters. Also includes a Map and an Author’s Note discussing the actual history used in the book. Narration is in the third-person, alternating between the prostitute Josephine Early and the air pirate captain Andan Cly. Ganymede is self-contained, but is connected to the previous volumes (Boneshaker, Dreadnought) in the Clockwork Century series. A couple of matters are left unresolved in Ganymede, but hopefully they will be explored in the next Clockwork Century novel, Inexplicable. September 27, 2011 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of Ganymede via Tor. The cover art is once again provided by Jon Foster.
ANALYSIS: Compared to Boneshaker and the novella Clementine, Dreadnought was a disappointment, failing to deliver the same level of fun, thrills and entertainment found in its predecessors. Fortunately, Cherie Priest returns to form in her latest Clockwork Century novel, Ganymede. For the most part at least.
One of the biggest issues I had with Dreadnought was how all of the exciting parts were sandwiched in between seemingly endless pages of boredom. Ganymede still suffers from a few boring lulls, but overall the book is a more entertaining affair thanks to faster pacing, a smaller page count, tighter plotting and a narrative that once again switches between two different POVs. It also helps that the tone of Ganymede is not as dark or serious as it was in Dreadnought, while the author has reined in her exploration of such themes as racism, gender roles and war, even though they are still present.
As for the novel’s characters, Josephine Early is another strong and interesting female protagonist in the vein of Briar Wilkes and Mercy Lynch. However, apart from her profession and the color of her skin, there is very little to differentiate Josephine from Briar and Mercy. Besides sharing the same traits and a similar narrative voice, Josephine’s relationship with her younger brother is strongly reminiscent of Briar’s relationship with her son Zeke and the relationship that Mercy establishes with her father. That’s why it’s nice there is a second POV in the book. Especially when that second POV is Captain Andan Cly. Cly is a personal favorite of the Clockwork Century’s supporting cast, so it was very rewarding to see the air pirate in a starring role. Plus, he provides a nice counterpoint to the familiarity of Josephine’s narrative.
Plot-wise, Ganymede is pretty straightforward. There are subplots involving “zombis/Dead Who Walk” and the pirate bay of Barataria, some romance, and even a little bit of voodoo, but mostly Ganymede is exactly as described in the synopsis. Because the story is so straightforward there are hardly any surprises along the way, but it’s a fun ride nonetheless. It’s also important to note that even though Ganymede is self-contained like its predecessors, the novel works better as a complement/sequel to Dreadnought than a standalone tale since it develops matters introduced in the previous book, while setting the stage for further developments in the next Clockwork Century adventure.
Of the writing in Ganymede, Cherie Priest delivers another impressive performance, led once again by highly accessible prose. Other highlights include the vibrant depiction of a Texas-occupied New Orleans with an escalating rotter problem, and the interesting history & historical figures and places — Horace Lawson Hunley, Madame Marie Laveau, Barataria Bay — woven into the novel. I also loved the way references are made to the other releases in the Clockwork Century series. Sometimes it’s simply the mention of a name — Croggon Hainey, Dr. Minnericht, Mr. Pinkerton’s Secret Service, Captain MacGruder — but in most cases, familiar faces and plot developments make an actual appearance in Ganymede. These include the bartender Lucy O’Gunning, Miss Angeline, Jeremiah Swakhammer and his daughter Mercy Lynch, Briar Wilkes and her son Zeke, Ranger Horatio Korman, and so on.
CONCLUSION: From an entertainment standpoint, Ganymede certainly has more to offer than Dreadnought, but at the same time, the novel falls a couple notches short of the thrilling heights attained by Boneshaker and Clementine. For the most part, though, Ganymede is another rewarding entry in the Clockwork Century series. A series I very much look forward to continuing in next year’s Inexplicable…