Źymbalist tells the story of two Martian girls attempting to get home in this debut steampunk novel.
In 1903, in three towns in Maine, three misfits’ lives are about to intersect. There is Emmylou, a young, clubfooted Martian girl who had been visiting Maine with her aunt only to have the woman fly away in their rocket ship, stranding Emmylou and her sister among the suspicious residents of Blue Hill (“What if the villagers somehow recognized them?” Emmylou muses. “If someone had noticed the rocket ship, then the villagers would be out and about looking for Martians”). There is Giacomo Venable, the self-published author of Sir Pilgarlic Guthrie’s Phantasy Retrospectacle and, in some ways, a self-loathing failure. There is Rory Slocum, a young boy who gets grief for always having his head in books, dreaming of life on Mars. Struggling to escape from the pressures of their respective situations, the characters drift forward in parallel threads, even as they move toward the ultimate goal of trying to help Emmylou and her sister escape the prejudicial society of Earth and return safely home. In the background is the constant, haunting song of the otherworldly Oceanides, the mysterious and maligned sea nymphs whose voices can be heard by only those that they have targeted for madness. Źymbalist writes in a lovely, highly descriptive prose that luxuriates in the details and curios of his setting: “The brimstone moths would be fluttering all about the command hub, each one fiddling with the many buttons and electrodes by which to work the technology of anti-matter propulsion...all of them nibbling on gowns of Martian mohair and felted wool.” The plot hits all the requisite steampunk notes—flying machines, Pinkertons, H.G. Wells—even if the pacing is lackadaisical. Though epic in structure (over 750 pages), the novel turns out to be ultimately reserved in its ambitions. It never fully delivers on the space-opera flourishes mentioned in the first chapter (Martian vulcanology, Venutian conquest); most of the book takes place in a Maine only marginally more exotic than the real state. That said, the world Źymbalist creates is so rich and vast that, for a certain type of reader, 750 pages will not be nearly enough.
A clever and finely wrought steampunk tale about aliens and misfits.