S.C. Green’s The Sunken is a steampunk-infused alternate history novel populated by metal men, dinosaurs, cannibals, dystopia, and a sprinkling of history. It makes for a fun filled romp that mixes and matches history and genre with infectious abandon and gleeful confidence. Set in an 1830s London very different from our own, it follows four young men, some historical others fictional, as they come of age in a world run by steam, where the descendants of the great dragon hunters have become the derided Stokers—the Dirty Men who keep the Great Machines running.
The novel oozes atmosphere and is a page-turner full of incident and meticulous worldbuilding. Green knows the history and is clearly fascinated by the period, offering an afterword that highlights the changes made to history, and also the joy in changing them. For a history buff like myself, this is reassuring, though not all readers share my concerns, especially when it comes to alternate history. This is a new world of cults and engineers, clearly and visibly grown from the seeds of history, with the historical figure Isambard Kingdom Brunel at the center.
Green’s worldbuilding is excessive and highly detailed, at least in terms of technology. London itself is well drawn; the Engine Ward is a living breathing, dirty and dangerous place. The machines, the nuts and bolts of steampunk, are lovingly described, but the society with its class structure and interplay between engineers and religion is, at times, lightly sketched. Similarly most of the main characters are, perhaps deliberately, unsympathetic and, unusually for the genre, there is a dearth of active female characters.
The Sunken is full of fun, eye-catching ideas—steampunk robots, cannibals, dragons, mad kings and vampires—but the elements never quite come together. It got my attention, but struggled to keep it, which is a shame, because I did enjoy the book. It was entertaining, but ultimately, I wanted to enjoy it more than I did.
The Sunken (Engine Ward Book 1) can be found here on Amazon.
Received a Copy From NetGalley For Review