A punk rocker wakes up in a Victorian world where unusual beasts plague Boston—still under British rule—in this debut steampunk thriller.
The novel begins with Sarah, in Victorian garb, witnessing a strange creature attack and whisk away a beggar near Boston Common. The action then shifts to Kevin Barnes, a “throwback punk band” musician sporting a purple mohawk, waiting for his “contemporary world” commuter train to Boston. A businessman who identifies himself as Roland asks Kevin to watch a briefcase and promptly disappears. Kevin boards the train and Sarah, in modern dress, becomes his seatmate. Kevin dozes off, then awakens to a transformed train—it runs on steam; British soldiers are aboard; and Sarah wears a Victorian outfit. The duo meets up with British game hunter Silas Cunningham and architectural genius Niles Barton, who have come to Boston to kill two Rhino-pards—a rhino and leopard combination created by a “most brilliant and disturbing” French scientist—which are wreaking havoc on the city. Kevin becomes gun bearer to these hunters as they explore the steam tunnels beneath Boston searching for their prey. Soon realizing their weapons are ineffective, the allies decide to try to kill the beasts by steam explosion, using Sarah as bait. By the thriller’s end, a British ironclad and a mysterious airship also join the conflict, with the strangely glowing scientist managing to escape with a surviving Rhino-pard. Kevin, too, considers exiting, but then makes a fateful exchange on his return train. Dennehy sets into motion an engaging time-travel and steampunk hybrid that includes pithy pit stops for comic commentary, including Barton’s snarky remark about the Boston Tea Party memorial (“Never seen a monument commemorating a lost war”). The narrative’s airship grand finale is particularly enjoyable and a splashy deus ex machina extravaganza. This novel is rather brief, however, leaving many of the mechanics fueling Dennehy’s engine (the role of Roland, for example) somewhat unclear. Still, it’s a fun and fascinating mashup—and a promising setup for further steampunk shenanigans.
A colorful and captivating time-travel adventure with fearsome creatures.