REVIEW by @GinnyLurcock : Prehistoric Clock by Robert Appleton (@robertappleton)
Airship officer Verity Champlain is well respected by her crew. But after a vital mission nearly goes wrong, she is having second thoughts about her career.
Lord Garrett Embrey is on the run. The Leviacrum Council, the secretive scientific body that holds sway over the Empire, executed his father and uncle and now they want him dead too.
Professor Cecil Reardon is consumed by grief. Since his wife and son died he’s been obsessed with his work, and now he is on the verge of an extraordinary scientific breakthrough: his machine is about to breach time itself, to undo fate’s cruel taking of his loved ones.
But the time jump doesn’t go according to plan, and part of London winds up millions of years in the past. Verity and her crew – Lord Embrey, Professor Reardon, and others stranded with them – must pull together to survive in a world ruled by dinosaurs… and to somehow get home.
Wow… just wow…
Ok, first and foremost, can I just say that going back in time to save your wife and child is not only terribly irresponsible, but also paradoxical. If they don’t die you don’t build the machine to go back in time and if you don’t build the machine to go back in time they die and if they don’t… *UNIVERSE EXPLODES*
I can understand the poor professor’s mania, his mad quest to save the wife and child he loved more than he loved himself. If anything happened to my husband and child… well I wouldn’t be quite right after. Still, I like to think that I would stop myself short of risking the very fabric of time itself.
Ok, with that out of the way. “Prehistoric Clock” by Robert Appleton is fantastic. FANTASTIC! A group of aeronauts, dandies, upper class stiffs, and scientists are transported back to the crustaceous period thanks to a grieving old man’s obsession. Yeah, that’s right. Crustaceous. As in DINO-FREAKING-SAURS. I have a little confession to make, one of the few things I love more than steam punk, more than werewolves, and maybe even more than zombies are dinosaurs. Because of this, and my small child at home, I may or may not have turned to my husband and asked why they didn’t just take the dinosaur train back through a time tunnel to get home. Then I hummed the theme to Dinosaur Train. Also, I heard every dinosaur’s explanation in the voice of Mr. Conductor.
So you know about the three narrators from the blurb, but you don’t know how epic they are. Even though the novel is woefully short (because I wanted more, not because it was lacking) they all had rich backgrounds that you learn in snippets periodically throughout the novel. It’s never a “this is my name and here’s my full bio” for which I was greatful. Throw in Tangeni, Verity’s unwavering second in command, and Billy, the scrappy young lad from Lancashire with a heart of gold, and you’ve got one hell of a cast of characters.
Heck, I even liked Agnes Polperro. Well, okay, honestly I didn’t. I actually hated her, but I liked how much I hated her. If that makes sense, which it probably doesn’t.
Remember when I said the novel was short? Well it’s under 200 pages. Now, you might be thinking about issues I’ve had recently with other short “novels,” but rest assured, those issues are not present here. The story is entirely contained in these 200 pages, and while there isn’t the ending I might have liked, there is an ending. One that’s satisfactory enough to warrant a stopping place in a novel, and open ended enough to leave you wanting more. Chapter 21, the very last chapter before the epilogue, made me cry. Which was a bit awkward as I was technically on the clock at the time.
One weird thing, I had to keep reminding myself this was a steam punk novel. There’s an airship, steam powered guns, steam powered cars, a freaking time machine, and it was blended so seamlessly into the story that it simply was. It’s like Mr. Appleton just said “yeup, this is how shit is” and that’s how shit was. Sometimes steam punk novels are so in your face with the steaming of punks that when it’s subtly woven into a truly genius narrative you end up having to go back and say “huh, I guess it was a steam punk novel. Well, will you look at that?”
Prehistoric Clock earned 4 dinosaurs. To quote another review “But really, you should have bought it the moment you read ‘steampunk, time travel and dinosaurs’.”
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