Friday, 26 June 2015
The Immorality Engine by George Mann
Whereas the first book felt too forced, the characters are now more familiar, more relatable, and the story just...just better structured, I guess. Not that the first book was terrible, it just felt like it was too much "Look How Steampunk I Am," and not enough else.
In this third book, we start the first chapter with the funeral of Veronica's sister, and then flip back in time. Newbury is an opium eater by this point, but Veronica and one of the chief inspectors of Scotland Yard roist him out to investigate a murder/robbery. To be precise, the murder of a man, and then the commission of a burglary by the same exact modus operandi of the dead man. And then a second body, same as the first.
Newbury is intrigued, and this pulls him into an occult club that hates that Queen Victoria has prolonged her life by artificial means, and are willing to do fairly horrific things to reorder Victorian society in a manner more to their pleasing. In the meantime, Victoria is getting more ruthless and less human, and even the doctor keeping her alive isn't sure she should be.
Of course, he's also the doctor taking care of Amelia, Veronica's sister, so we can assume that there's some nefarious plot afoot. And of course there is. They all come to a boil at roughly the same time, and if there's very few of the twists and turns I didn't see coming, they at least felt well executed when they arrived.
It's mostly down to the characters now. I'm more invested in Veronica and Newbury than I was in the first book, knowing more about who they are, what they do, what they care about. The suggested romance that has been flowering very, very slowly over the last couple of books hits some nasty snags, but it was mostly background to the action.
And yet again, the end of the book has a veer that ups the stakes, makes things more ominous, and yes, yet again, makes me want to pick up the next one.
Interestingly, when I was reading this, there were aspects that almost made me group it with those books with the theme of a world devoid of a moral centre. It's less overt, but these books are more and more about the rot at the centre of Empire, so in that way, it felt like it belonged with the more illustrious company that preceded it in my reading list.