Ganymede (Clockwork Century)
by Cherie Priest
Edited by Liz Gorinsky
Cover Artist: Jon Foster
Review by Matt Rice
Tor Books Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765329462
Date: 27 September 2011 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Cherie Priest fans must be giddy just now. Good news abounds: The first book of The Clockwork Century series, Boneshaker, is being made into a movie. Clementine, the stand-alone second book in the serious, previously available a hardcover from Subterranean Press and as e-book, will soon be released in paperback. And Priest's tale of a steampunk, war-mired, zombie-infested America moves forward and begins coming together in the latest installment, Ganymede.
It is clear from the beginning of Ganymede that the book will be a turning point in the series. Disparate strands begin coming together: The story begins in the underground ruins of Seattle, where the hero, Andan Cly, airship pirate extraordinaire, who made a brief appearance toward the end of Boneshaker, has engaged in a shy courtship with the town's sheriff, Briar Wilkes. Other characters from the first two books are present, too: Mercy Lynch, the Confederate nurse who traveled cross-country in Dreadnought, has healed her father, Jeremiah Swakhammer, who was injured during the events of the first book. And the "Texian" Ranger Korman makes an appearance later in the story, too. Readers may expect the satisfaction of encountering favorite characters and observing the visible advancement of the the world in which the Clockwork Century is set.
Ganymede centers on intrigue and espionage and, as befits a story characterized by mystery and scheming, is set in New Orleans, to which Cly is summoned to perform a job for an old flame, Josephine Early. Little does Cly realize that the job involves piloting the titular machine, the Ganymede, an "underwater airship" (i.e., a submarine), down the Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico to be picked up by Union forces. Of course, it's not that simple: Cly has to navigate an unproven vessel, stolen from the Confederates, past the Texian forces that occupy Louisiana. Of course Cly and his crew are willing to undertake the task.
Ganymede lacks some of the momentum of previous books in the series, but that shouldn't necessarily put readers off; Priest's prose is as strong as ever, and her characters and dialog are as well-drawn. Again, this is more of a spy story, and the (comparatively) slow advancement of the novel serves to build tension: Will Cly and his men complete their mission? Will Josephine be found out by Texian spies? Priest uses the slower pace to good effect, detailing the edgy atmosphere that permeates the occupied city. And fans of action shouldn't despair: There are several good battle scenes, including an extended one toward the end of the book.
Again, the real treat for readers comes from watching the world Priest has built move forward. It's clear now that this is a world on the cusp of changes. The Ganymede is hailed as a machine capable of finally turning the course of the war for whatever side finally acquires it. And don't forget the zombies! What appeared to be a local phenomenon in Boneshaker has spread across the country, as more and more soldiers and civilians use the "sap", a drug refined from the Blight in Seattle, and consequently become rotters. The walking dead feature in Ganymede in force, too, prowling the New Orleans docks in ever greater numbers. Indeed, famed Voodoo queen Marie Laveau makes a brief appearance, urging Josephine and Ranger Korman to work together to stop the epidemic. Laveau's prophesies tease the reader with greater developments to come.
What Ganymede lacks in propulsive motion it more than makes up for with the characterization and storytelling readers have come to expect from Priest. Ganymede sets the stage for major upheaval in the Clockwork Century, and, with that in mind, fans owe it themselves to check this book out.