Marc reviews ‘Prosperity’ (Prosperity #1) by Alexis Hall. This book was released by Riptide Publishing on October 27th, 2014 and is 192 pages long. The audiobook was released by Hedgehog Inc on May 27th, 2016, was narrated by Nicholas Boulton and is 6 hrs and 6 mins long.
Why I read this book: While I don’t often read steampunk books, I have read a couple of really good ones in the past and I like to challenge myself to leave my comfort zone now and again. I have listened to a story by this author before (For Real, a brilliant BDSM story) and when I saw this steampunk on audible, I decided to review it for our ‘Different Genres’ week on RGR.
steampunk: a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.
M’lady’s name is Shadowless, cos she’s the fastest ship in the sky. And she ain’t no everyday airship, she’s an aethership, meaning she don’t need engines nor turbines nor nowt but an aethermancer and the stars t’ guide her.
When luckless Dil falls half-dead onto the deck of the skyship Shadowless, he joins an outlaw crew haunted by visions of maelstrom. Driven by a ruthless captain, guided by a pilot with madness in her eyes, they hunt the power that holds up the clouds. Until it turns – to hunt them.
Note: If you prefer eBooks to audiobooks, there is a prosperity eBook bundle available at Riptide Publishing with all 6 Prosperity stories for only $3.99 (at time of posting). Get ‘Prosperity: The Complete Collection’ HERE.
I had no idea what to expect with this audiobook – at all. And since there is nothing quite like it among the hundreds of books I have read, I am not sure I will be able to tell you what you can expect, either. However, it made me think of the movie ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow’, given the flying ships and gay space pirate as well as the city in the sky in the video game ‘Bioshock: Infinite’. The atmosphere is dark and gritty, like in the HBO show ‘Deadwood’ and the characters are complex rebels with complicated relationships that made me think of the crew of ‘Firefly’.
‘Prosperity is going to challenge your perceptions and makes you think. It’s also an insane adventure, so buckle up and be prepared for ANYTHING!
Now to be honest, it took me a while to get into this book, because the style and setting are so different from what I usually read. This book and genre are not my comfort zone and it was not a super easy read. But I was really interested in checking out this story and I’m glad I did, because there is SO MUCH to love about ‘Prosperity’. That’s where audiobooks come in for me. It is much easier for me to step outside my comfort zone, when I can listen to a skilled narrator, who reads the story I am interested in to me. I don’t think I have ever listened to an audiobook by Nicholas Boulton before, but his voice was perfectly suited for this story and he narrated this book very well.
One of the style choices I did not expect was the inclusion of short chapter summaries. I love chapter names, but I feared summaries might give too much away. They really didn’t,though. Events and actions are teased, but in a way that does not destroy the twists and turns. However, sometimes Picadilly spoiled his own story a bit, by commenting on things he would find out later in the story. I personally didn’t much mind it, but I wanted you guys to be aware. It worked in making the book feel like it was written in a different time and interestingly, the book enforces that idea after the story is concluded, by suggesting it was written in an alternate universe.
The book is set in 19th century England and the story has a gold rush vibe, with huge floating cities being errected in the sky, the new frontier, to harvest an extremely valuable substance from the clouds with big ships that fly through the sky. The sky cities are largely lawless places and the characters we meet in this book are flawed, complex characters who are far from law abiding.
I love how diverse the main characters are.
Picadilly, the protagonist, is a black, bisexual man and a skilled thief, who is almost killed for cheating in a card game against a merciless crime lord (named Milord). The crime lord is not just merciless, but also utterly without morals with his only saving grace being his love for a good man. Then there is Ruben, a beautiful and built former missionary, who can intuitively feel what people feel and gets their fierce loyalty for being a great leader.
Then there is the seemingly crazy, lesbian navigator of the ship. She takes drugs to remain ‘sane’, can see the aether and sense the sky crakens (monsters that can easily destroy sky ships and towns) and has a favorite prostitute at every harbor.
My favorite character, though, is Byron Kae, the androgenous sky captain of the aether ship Shadowless, a ship that can fly on its own (with their guiding) and seems to have its own conciousness. They have seen the edge of the universe and are changed for it. They are not quite human, but sort of bird like and at first Picadilly is scared of them. However, they are sweet and the most gentle soul – at the same time fierce and fragile.
Now as I said, I had to get used to the style of this story. Some of you may be used to it from Regency books, but if you don’t often read historicals you may want to check out a sample to see if the protagonist’s dialect and use of slang are understandable to you. While it did not make it easy to get into the story for me at first, though, the language is utterly beautiful and at times poetic. It has its own wonderful rhythm and once I got used to it, it helped to lure me away to a different place and time. While the atmosphere of the world we are introduced to in this story is often very dark and gritty, the language brings a lot of humor into the story that lightens this book up a lot and is a big part in making this insane adventure so much fun.
Rating: 9/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He did the Oxbridge thing sometime in the 2000s and failed to learn anything of substance. He has had many jobs, including ice cream maker, fortune teller, lab technician, and professional gambler. He was fired from most of them.
He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a 17th century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car.
He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.