Clockwork Sky: Steam-powered Astroboy/Dickens in Metropolis

by dm00

Cover of “Clockwork Sky”

Madeleine Rosca, author of the delightful rag-punk Hollow Fields returns with a steam-punk story that looks like it will reimagine Astroboy in a Dickensian Metropolis London.

Sally Peppers is a girl with an aptitude for things mechanical and a fascination for velocity in a London full of people left unemployed by her uncle’s steam-powered robots. She chafes at the restrictions Victorian England puts on the female children of the upper classes, and becomes adept at escaping parental supervision.

On one high-speed outing she enters a race through London’s sewers — the illegitimate entertainment of the unemployed. There, she encounters Sky, her uncle’s new steam-powered police-boy, dispatched to return her to Proper Society.

Together, they stumble on a sinister secret lurking in the sewers.

The art is energetic and fresh. The writing is solid, though perhaps there’s little innovation in plot or characterization: Sally is spunky, Sky is rule-bound and earnest, Sally’s uncle looks like a Tezuka villain. Some of the side-characters bear watching: Sky’s police commander seems poised between corruption and duty, and the London Sally lives in promises to be a complex mix of technology and poverty. I look forward to finding out what place Sally will find for herself there.

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