Romulus Buckle & The Engines of War

The steampunk series concludes with this retro review from January 10, 2014.

This book, like the first Romulus Buckle novel, came to me via Amazon’s Vine program.

Review: Romulus Buckle & The Engines of War, Richard Ellis Preston, Jr., 2013.Romulus Buckle

I’ll admit I approached this book more out of duty than desire. I had already committed to reviewing it before I had even read the proceeding Romulus Buckle & The City of the Founders.

I found this one more enjoyable and better paced since Preston had gotten the introduction of most of the main characters out of the way in the first book. We also got the long descriptions of the Pneumatic Zeppelin, center of most of the action, out of the way there. You will need that description, though, so the first book can’t really be skipped.

To be sure, Captain Romulus Buckle’s undergoing the expected romantic confusion of new attraction to his sisters Max and Sabrina. (No, there’s no creepy incest vibe here. All three are orphan adoptees of Balthazar Crankshaft but unrelated to each other by blood.) Max and Sabrina are also struggling with new feelings – and their unacknowledged expressions of them however – towards Romulus. And, yes, the Founder clan has been covertly instigating war between the other clans.

But Preston opens his world of the series in unexpected ways. To be sure, we get two nifty set piece battles with alien critters. We also get a very Age of Sail type naval battle between airships – complete with snipers in the rigging. An intriguing automaton character is revealed. New clans and their cities are introduced. Valkyrie Smelt, beautiful and haughty daughter of Katzenjammer Smelt (yes, Preston’s names are amusing at times), becomes an officer aboard Buckle’s ship. Max begins to be obsessed with the legendary Martian Equation of Immortality which she encounters in an unlikely place. Continue reading “Romulus Buckle & The Engines of War”

Romulus Buckle & The City of the Founders

The steampunk series continues with two more installments.

This retro review is from December 22, 2013.

Review: Romulus Buckle & The City of the Founders, Richard Ellis Preston, Jr., 2013.Romulus Buckle

Preston’s great strength, perhaps honed in his career as a screenwriter, is his ability to evoke and describe the physical details of a scene, its characters, land, atmosphere, and, of course, the brass fittings and leather clothes and steam engines of steampunk.

The details of this world are interesting. It is the “Snow World”, Earth about 300 hundred years after an invasion by aliens, dubbed “Martians” but they aren’t really from Mars) which left Earth with large obelisks of indestructible material and no electricity. In the ruins of Los Angeles, it has even left a permanent cloud of poison gas. Man has reverted to small clans built around professions: (the Crankshafts, merchants that Captain Romulus Buckle belongs to; the Alchemists, engineers of steam powered robots and other things; the Imperials who built the main character of the story, the airship Pneumatic Zeppelin.

And, while it’s still ludicrous, Preston’s steampunk technology is less ludicrous than that of a lot of other steampunk stories. This is something of a naval adventure with detailed descriptions of the airship and, when necessary, its repair. Essentially, the plot involves the rescue of Crankshaft leader Balthazar from imprisonment in the City of Founders, a clan living under the ruins of Los Angeles. Continue reading “Romulus Buckle & The City of the Founders”