The Cold Beneath is a tale of doomed high adventure, written from the perspective of the last survivor of a journey, sharing what came to pass in his diary shortly before he plans on willingly embracing his own death at the hands of the tormented crew who traveled with him.
Philip Syntax is a British inventor who has relegated himself to the American south in the latter half of the nineteenth century as a form of self-imposed exile after an invention of his was credited to his former mentor. Arriving at his estate with a proposal for a great journey is Gideon Lightbridge, a former U.S. Colonel and a great explorer who has need of Philip because he is using the very invention Philip had stolen from him years before-a pair clockwork legs that serve the amputee better than his original ones did. Lightbridge wants Philip to maintain the legs in sub-zero temperatures because he plans being the first explorer to make it to the North Pole. They will be traveling in a helium Airship called The Northern Fancy.
Philip regales the reader with the story of his journey, leading up to his ultimate fate at the hands of the crew who were possessed by a strange and nightmarish sickness in the Arctic Northern extremes.
The Cold Beneath is a very entertaining steam punk tale tinged with the flavor of a seaborne mystery. While the crew guides the ship upon the air, it felt almost as if they were on the high seas, though the seas in this book are the frozen wastes of the far north. This is a zombie tale, and much of the fun of this story lies in the creative usage of the undead here, which are blue tinged nightmares that are somewhat Frankenstein-ish in appearance and actions. This is also classic Gothic type horror told in diary form. It would be easy to imagine this story being turned into an old Hammer classic, with devious deeds and plenty of dark mysteries afoot throughout. There is also romance in this story, though even that is intriguing and riddled with twists and turns. The author blends all these different styles together flawlessly and makes them all fit together nicely.
Tonia Brown has created a terrific voice for her narrator that puts the reader in the story and made me appreciate every crisp detail as it is revealed. Philip Syntax is a thoroughly realized character, as are the other members of the crew of The Northern Fancy who play a major part in this tale such as Lightbridge, Albert, the Chief Mechanic, and Geraldine Goode, a former flame of Philip’s and the doctor on board the air ship.
If there is any sort of failing with this tale, perhaps it lies within the diary format. By nature, things are revealed in advance of a full description and the reader knows things, such as the ultimate fate of the crew from the very beginning. Still, surprises abound and as with any good mystery, I found myself guessing at the answers that reveal themselves in a highly satisfactory way within the last few pages of the book.
The Cold Beneath is a great bet for anyone who enjoys Gothic horror, mysteries, steam punk, or intense zombie action. The characters are colorful, the pace is excellent, and the undead are some of the creepiest I’ve seen in quite some time.
The Cold Beneath can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Cold-Beneath-steampunk-zombie-ebook/dp/B0086VRXY6/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1338389299&sr=1-4
Derek J. Goodman has crafted four very different and very intriguing fantastical stories about machines that seem to spring straight from his imagination onto the page.
The first, Dea Ex Machina, mixes the grim metallic future of a world filled with humans that are essentially factory slaves, working on machines as if they too are machines, but it also has magic in it as well that goes beyond the simple metal and zombie slave mentality that shackles the workers in place.
The second, a novella, Twister Sisters, was the story I enjoyed the most, more than likely because I have not been exposed to much steam punk and this was a rousing introduction to the genre. The depth of the society the author developed was exceptional. Here we are thrust not only into a world where steam and machines allow humans to take flight in massive contraptions, but also is a place where women, for the most part, rule and men play a secondary role due to their penchant towards violence and machismo. I enjoyed this swashbuckling tale of high adventure and would not mind re-entering that world once again.
Those Were The Days, the third story, was something I, as a kid who grew up on 80s teen and sci fi stories could appreciate. The author’s notes confirmed that he shares similar sentiments with me about movies such as War Games, amongst others. Revisiting and updating a lost tale from the 80s allowed me to grow nostalgic for a story that never actually existed, though it seemed quite familiar to me.
As Wide As The Sky, And Twice as Explosive was the shortest and in some ways, the most interesting of the four stories found in this book. A boy who finds the sky dwelling and warring giant robots far more fascinating and intoxicating than his earth-bound human counterparts is not all that different than things we have seen before, but the extent to which he takes that fascination definitely new. We are given a taste of something that perhaps might leave you wondering where a story like this could lead to if it was expanded, and wondering whether you would be interested in taking such a journey.
Overall, I enjoyed the diversity of machine related stories the author has lined up in this book. I could really get into a larger volume of steam punk either in the world of Twister Sisters or a brand new one from Derek Goodman. I also have a feeling the author has many other worlds he could show us with machines in them that are just as fascinating as the ones he has shown us here.
Machina can be found at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Machina-Derek-J-Goodman/dp/145155351X/ref=cm_cr-mr-title