S. M. Peters
S. M. Peters’ Whitechapel is a veritable steampunk hell, with nearly all sunlight cut off by an atmosphere of hot, stifling, ash-laden air where “…breathing and not breathing were of equal detriment to one’s health.” People are afflicted by a strange illness where mechanical growths begin to transform their bodies into something deadly, monstrous, or both. While the rulers of this hell may seem a little comical when reading the summary on the back of the book, Mama Engine and Grandfather Clock are far more menacing when you get to know them. The feeling at the beginning of the story is reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984, with the oppressed masses living in perpetual fear of their rulers and where every clock is a window through which they can be observed.
This book is visually stunning. I really wish I could have pictured it better. This bizarre vision of a Whitechapel grown out of the ground, surrounding the great chimney that is the Stack, is something so unique words alone hardly do it justice. The plot is one of darkness and revolution. There is little hope in this world and I admit that while I wouldn’t go so far as to call it depressing, it was beginning to wear on me after awhile. However, the ending was well worth it.
For quite some time in the beginning of the story I had a hard time keeping track of the characters. I felt like they were thrown at me a bit too quickly. It’s not that there were too many of them, I just didn’t have quite enough time to really identify the differences between a few of them. That made the beginning a little confusing, but I managed to figure it out soon enough. The characters themselves had interesting pasts and their own internal demons to fight, which kept things interesting.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book and the author as well. S. M. Peters’ other novel, Ghost Ocean, was also a great, if somewhat strange, read. In my opinion his stories are weird in the best possible way and I will patiently await his next creation. Until next time…