This is a self-published work I got through the author on LibraryThing.
It’s steampunk, and, while I’ve enjoyed steampunk works, there is something artistically decadent about the subgenre. Most of the steampunk I’ve read fails as plausible alternate history. The technology is often knowingly absurd unlike some of the tech in dated science fiction. And they often aren’t as imaginative as most fantasy seems to be (at least by reading reviews and book covers — I read little fantasy apart from Tim Powers and Michael Moorcock).
Still decadent can be fun though I wasn’t all that excited by this book.
You’re on your own with a purchasing link since Lewis’ Amazon page doesn’t list this title.
Review: The Lost Airship, Joseph Robert Lewis, 2011.
Normally, I’m not much for historical fantasy, but the promise of an airship and a polar expedition was enough for me to invest the time in reading this novella.
This novel does have a bit of a steampunk feel to it with the airship and national and imperial intrigues. The technology is, as the author says in his introductory note, sort of a combination of Renaissance and Industrial Age. With the exception of one bit of magic, it’s an alternate history, but not one where the deviation from our timeline is in man’s social history but in the physical history of the Earth rather like the premises behind Harry Harrison’s Eden trilogy or Harry Turtledove’s A Different Flesh. Here, the last ice age simply never went away in northern Europe, and the history of the world was altered.
That bit of magic is a sword wielded by the protagonist, an immortal named Omar Bakhoum. It drinks and stores the aether fluid and, sometimes, the souls of those it kills. Thus, Omar has access to a cadre of physical and intellectual talent he can use to get him out of tight spots. And, if these imprisoned souls don’t want to help, well, Omar has ways of persuading them …
Omar signs up for an airship expedition going north from Marrakesh to explore ice covered Europe. He exchanges an old Rus map of Europe’s coastlines before the ice age for a place aboard. He wants togo to Ysland, this world’s version of Iceland.
Lewis’ descriptions of action and his dialogue are good, and I liked the magic of his seireiken blade. His pacing is a little odd, a lot of events are crowded together in the last two chapters when other authors would have either added another chapter or started the events earlier, but it works. What Omar finds at the end of his quest was unexpected but satisfying.
I don’t think I’m going to be in a hurry to read Lewis’ Halycon Trilogy which is set in the same world four years later since it doesn’t seem to involve Omar. While Lewis is an effective adventure writer, the world doesn’t hold that much more interest for me. However, I certainly don’t feel cheated I spent time with this story.