Saturday, July 30, 2011
Earlier this year I read a YA steampunk affair by Australian author Richard Harland called Worldshaker. As these things go it wasn't bad at all, it told the story of an alternate future where the bulk of the great civilisations of Europe had been forced onto world travelling ships called juggernauts and how a young man from the Upper Deck ruling class; Col Porpentine, had teemed with a determined Lower Deck member of the working class, commonly known as Filthies, to overthrow the order of things and turn Worldshaker into a democratic society with equal rights for all.
Liberator picks up a few months after the end of Worldshaker. The juggernaut has been renamed with something more fitting to its new status and all are adjusting to the new society. Unfortunately generations of mistreatment and poor behaviour from both sides have created divisions that may never be healed. The Filthies call the Upper Decks people Swanks and relish their new position of power...some of them relish it a little too much.
Col is trying to help his family adjust to the change, without a lot of success in some cases, and at the same time come to terms with his feelings for his friend and fellow revolutionary the Filthie known as Riff. That's when a saboteur strikes and threatens to unsettle everything.
As things come unglued on the Liberator, Riff fades into the background, Col finds himself fighting for his life and the zealot Lye takes over.
There's a very clear message in the book that you can't simply unsettle an old order without something viable to take it's place. There are echoes of the Russian Revolution, the French Revolution and in some cases Hitler's rise to power and the formation of the Third Reich.
Liberator is attacked by juggernauts from other Imperial powers and eventually does to a Russian juggernaut what happened on Liberator, freeing the Russian Filthies and giving them the power to decide their own destiny. Col has to also sort out things with Riff, not easy when your former wife is still alive and largely insane.
It ends up happily enough, with scope for more should the author go on, although I'd advise against it. The idea has legs, but not enough to support another book. He has learned from Worldshaker and given things time to happen, I felt they were a little rushed in the first one. He also let violent situations play out that way, many YA authors don't like to cross certain boundaries. It's a good followup and deserves an audience, if only for Col's amazing baby brother Antrobus.