Written by Charli Anderson
Written by the collaborative penmanship of Peter Lawrence and Chris Trengove, “The Incorruptibles” is the first of a series of Steampunk Fantasy novels centred on The Smoke, and the efforts of numerous groups to overthrow the corrupt leadership. The blurb promises sex, violence, and a new, exciting perspective to Steampunk fiction, while retaining the icons of corsets, steam power and airships. The book is available to download for Kindle for free, and retailing in paperback at around £6 on Amazon.
Set in the Commission-controlled city-state of “The Smoke”, The Incorruptibles tells the story of Cerval Franks, a member of the Frankenstein household, and his mission to release the citizens of The Smoke from their servitude at the hands of the rich elite. At 286 pages in the paperback version, the book is by no means daunting size-wise, and the very pretty artwork on the cover lends to the overall Steampunk theme. The book features a large list of characters, including the young journalist, Shelley Mary, Cerval’s loyal-to-a-fault friend, Thorsten, Chavalier leader, Dalton, and the warrior woman Paulina, and within these characters there is a little something for everyone. Mad scientists, sadistic torturers and idealistic youths are all packed into a single story which focusses on reformation and release, in many senses of the word. Sex features heavily throughout, both in reference and in actuation, and there are frequent references to twisted versions of historical fact, which lends the story a sense of familiarity to its otherwise fantasy world. The story also features some hidden gems, such as the inclusion of two groups of tribal cannibals known as the Mancits and the Manus (football fans may recognise the reference here), drawing parallels with modern culture in an amusing and light-hearted way.
The story is paced fairly quickly, and the book does feature a few spelling and grammatical mishaps, but nothing particularly glaring springs to mind. As a plotline, the idea of overthrowing a corrupt leadership is nothing new, with many other novels, both Steampunk and non, featuring the same base plot. The story frequently jumps between groups of characters, with numerous themes and storylines all running at once, with long descriptive passages about the world and very little in terms of character description. The synopsis doesn’t give much away in the first instance, so it is difficult to determine if the story stands up to scrutiny of the blurb, but the promise of airships, corsets and steam have certainly been followed through.
The book certainly has a Steampunk theme in more than just name, featuring strange inventions and an alternative history as well as the promised airships and corsets. It features some very clever parallels and some amusing jokes, as well as some rather smart word-play and an interesting premise for the story. And, at £6 for the paperback, it isn’t going to rip a hole in your pocket any time soon.
However, the jumping around in the story was often difficult to manage and could be confusing at times, with many of the plotlines blurring into each other or becoming lost as the paragraphs bounced around like a rubber ball in a small space. I also found that, despite the book featuring some rather lengthy descriptive passages and funny quips, the characters themselves felt oddly flat – they never seemed real or believable, many had little to no backstory and at no point did I feel that I had connected with any of them. Perhaps there were simply too many of them, all competing for page-time, which is why Cerval Franks, toted as the lead character in the blurb, actually featured very little in terms of progressing the story. The sexual encounters within the book were varied and non-discriminative, yet they often came across as forced, unnecessary and boring. The story also does not feature a new perspective to Steampunk, as it follows a typical theme of Dystopian society hidden within the promise of a Utopian paradise. Much of the writing felt incomplete, and toward the end, large chunks of potential content appear to have been completely missed out, leaving several unanswered questions for the reader to mull over.
The story has great potential, but misses out with it’s lack of character depth, overly complicated writing style and by drowning itself in pointless sex. It is worth reading for the entertaining jokes at the expense of popular culture, but I would be hesitant to outright recommend this to anyone.
Charli Anderson is a writer, photographer and all round good egg. You can view her work and see what else she gets up to at her blog, here: Charli Anderson Writing Blog