Dawn of Steam: First Light - Jeffrey Cook & Sarah Symonds

Dawn of Steam: First Light

By Jeffrey Cook & Sarah Symonds

  • Release Date: 2014-11-24
  • Genre: Science Fiction
Our rating: 5/5 stars

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Dawn of Steam: First Light by Jeffrey Cook & Sarah Symonds epub - ebook - audiobook

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In 1815, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, two of England's wealthiest lords place a high-stakes wager on whether a popular set of books, which claim that the author has traveled to many unknown corners of the globe, are truth or, more likely, wild fiction. First Light is an epistolary novel, told primarily through the eyes of former aide-de-camp Gregory Conan Watts, describing the journeys of the airship Dame Fortuna and its crew through journals and letters to his beloved fiancee. The first recruit is, necessarily, the airship's owner: war hero, famed genius, and literal knight in steam-powered armor Sir James Coltrane. Persuading him to lend his talents and refitted airship to the venture requires bringing along his sister, his cousin, and the crew that flew with him during the Napoleonic Wars. Only with their aid can they track down a Scottish rifleman, a pair of shady carnies, and a guide with a strong personal investment in the stories. When they set out, the wild places of the world, including the far American West, the Australian interior, darkest Africa, and other destinations are thought to be hostile enough. No one expects the trip to involve a legendary storm -- or the Year Without a Summer of 1815-1816. The voyage is further complicated by the human element. Some parties are not at all happy with the post-war political map. Most problematic of all, the crew hired by the other side of the wager seem willing to win by any means necessary. Dawn of Steam: First Light follows these adventurers, as they open up the world. In the process, their journey helps lay the foundations for an age of enlightenment and technology to come.

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More Reviews

  • For fans of alt history, steampunk, period SF and/or frontier adventure stories

    By CeScottD
    (In the interests of full disclosure, I was sent a review copy of this work, in expectation of an honest review) The casual reader may find the novel a little challenging, because the author has almost perfectly captured the style and cadence of the period, but fans of Wells, Verne and other 19th century authors should have no difficulty at all, and for those who do, I believe it is well worth the effort, because you will quickly find yourself wanting to know more about these characters and what happens next. The story is told as a series of letters and journal entries, which are intended to go behind the scenes of a very famous expedition. The narrative feels so much like a product of the era (albeit an alternate version of it), that I found myself wishing that the photographs referenced in the story actually existed, because I would dearly love to see them. The world-building is extensive and impressive, and even though we're never told what specific event (or events) happened differently to result in this very different version of the 1800's, it feels very coherent and fully realised... so much so, in fact, that I would quite like to see some sort of addendum or appendix with some notes about the timeline. Perhaps in a future volume! By having the fictional editor (the future wife of one of the explorers) choose which journal entries to include, the story is able to adhere to the 'collected documents' format, without getting bogged down by too many tedious entries, and manages to tell a ripping good adventure tale in the process. Most of the entries are from just one of the explorers (which makes sense, as it's the future husband of the fictional editor), but there are also a few letters included from the other members of the expedition, and the author does an excellent job of giving them each a very distinct voice, which matches their character as you get to know them throughout the story. Even the entries from the same character vary in tone, depending on whether he's writing a formal letter, a journal entry or a private letter to the woman he hopes to one day marry, which further immerses the reader in the reality of that world. I really only have two, very small, criticisms: [1] Some letters/entries are clearly labelled as to who wrote them and to/for whom, but others aren't. I realise that this would quite possibly be the case with real historical documents (which may be why it was done this way), but at times, I found it confusing. Most of the time, I was able to figure it out pretty quickly, but a few times it pulled me out of the story, which is never a good thing. And [2] while it did end on the completion of the first leg of their journey (and is obviously setting up for there to be more books in the series), it felt a little like it was ending right in the middle of a larger book. There was no cliffhanger, as such, but it just felt more like the end of 'part one' than the end of a novel. A minor quibble, because I fully intend to read the next (and future) volumes in the series, but it seemed worth noting. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed "Dawn of Steam: First Light" and I very much look forward to seeing what happens next!

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