RogerBW's Blog

Nell Gwynne's On Land and At Sea, Kage Baker 22 March 2019

2012 steampunk SF short novel, very loosely connected with the Company series. The finest brothel in 19th-century Whitehall… goes on holiday to Torquay. At least, that was the plan.

Of course, nothing ever goes smoothly; it soon becomes apparent that another visitor to the town has constructed some form of sub-marine warship (propelled by and armed with steam, of course; this is 1848 after all) and is planning to use it to conduct hostilities against the new French republic. And it seems that all the operatives of the Gentlemen's Speculative Society are off starting or stopping revolutions in Europe…

On the face of it, this is a straightforward story of educated whores using ingenuity and a little advanced technology to deal with a foe. But it is also a pleasing inversion of the standard tale of the heroic lone inventor, who saves the world with his miraculous new vessel; this heroic lone inventor is a bloody nuisance, with no grasp of the ramifications of his proposed actions.

The Transmitter hummed. A warble in the carrier wave grew into a low moaning sound, which was evidently originating with Mr. Felmouth.

While the plot is not comedic, the actions are; where Baker has often excelled is in the deadpan description of the ridiculous, so that the reader can laugh while still holding the characters in sympathy. The plot is perhaps a little thin and readily comprehended, but the joy here is in the writing.

The work was completed after Baker's death by her sister; the style is caught superbly, and I hope Bartholomew writes more in her own name.

Also, bullet-proof corset stays.

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Previous in series: The Women of Nell Gwynne's | Series: The Company

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