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"Filled with coal-fired submarines, scientific secrets, and two young people who fight injustice, work to bring down an evil empire, and quite literally save the world, Cuttlefish is a book to dream upon. Freer's clean style and vivid descriptions, his complex characters and his clear vision make this a book all ages can enjoy."
-Sarah A. Hoyt, author of Darkship Thieves
"Dave Freer always delivers compelling, fast-moving, and addictive fantasy adventures. Write more, Dave."
-Garth Nix, New York Times-bestselling author of the Abhorsen trilogy and the Keys to the Kingdom series
"David Freer is an imaginative author who tells great stories."
-Rebecca Moesta, New York Times-bestselling coauthor of Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights
The dark shadow crept onwards into Wandsworth Canal, and down into Nine Elms Waterway, and then slipped through the rotting concrete teeth into the deep channel.
Like the rest of the crew of the Cuttlefish, Tim Barnabas let out a sigh of relief. He knew all about the dangers of the Stockwell tube run—dead trees, fallen masonry, and, of course, the chance of detection in the relatively shallow waters of London's street-canals. Even though the submarines of the Underpeople did this run often, it was still the most risky part of their journey.
"Up snuiver, Seaman," said Captain Malkis. "Let's breathe before we head down-channel."
Tim worked the brass crank with a will, sending the breathing pipe to the surface of the Thames.
He swallowed hard to sort out the effect of the pressure change on his ears.
And then an explosion rocked the Cuttlefish. Rang the sub like a bell. Tim could hear nothing. But he saw Captain Malkis push the dive levers to full.
A blast of water sprayed out of the snuiver outlet, soaking them all, before the cutoff valve closed it off. The Cuttlefish settled onto the bottom of the dredged channel. No one moved or spoke. Tim's ears still rang, but he could hear sounds again, and saw the captain signal to the Marconi man hunched protectively over the dials and valves of his wireless set. The Marconi operator nodded, wound his spooler, and sent an aerial wire up to the surface.
Tim watched the man's face in the dim glow of the battery lights. His expression grew increasingly bleak. He flicked the dial expertly to another frequency. Then the Marconi operator pulled the headphones off. "I got the Clapham Common sender first. Transmission cut out after an SOS. I picked up Parson's Green. They weren't even sending coded messages. Just reports that Stockwell's been blown, and Clapham had reported that they were under attack by men of the Royal Inniskillen Fusiliers, before they went off air, Captain. And I picked up a signal on the Royal Navy calling channel. The HMS Mornington and the HMS Torquay are ordered to start laying dropping mines in the Thames Channel from Blackfriars Point to Rotherhithe Bay. The captain of the Mornington was getting mighty shirty about the operation not running according to orders, and him still being below Plumstead Shoal and not on station."
Captain Malkis's face showed no trace of expression. They all knew that the Inniskillens were Duke Malcolm's special troops. As the chief of Imperial Intelligence, the duke had made them into a regiment to be feared. "Get the aerial and the snuiver down, crewmen." He turned to the engine-room speaker tube. "Chief Engineer. I'll have all the power that you can give us. Mr. Mate." He turned to First Mate Werner. "You work out our time to the mouth of the Lea. We'll see how they like risking their ships in the Canningtown shallows."
"Captain ... should we not go back?" asked the first mate, his voice cracking, his heavy Dutch accent even thicker than usual.
"No, Mr. Mate," said Malkis. "It's us ... or rather our passenger, that they're after. It's just as well that we set our departure forward as soon as the Callands arrived."
Tim cranked the snuiver in. He could feel the heavy, slow thump of the Cuttlefish's engines picking up speed. The breathing pipe clicked home. "Snuiver down, Captain," he said, trying to keep his voice as controlled as the ship's master. It quavered slightly. But he didn't scream. He didn't say, "My mam. I need to go back to the tunnels to see if she's all right," although those were the words that wanted out, and his fear dried his mouth and made it hard to speak.
"Good lad, Barnabas," said the captain, as if this was something that happened every day. "Get down to Chief Barstone in the engine room. He'll have work for an extra greaser if he's going to keep the engines running at this speed."
"Aye, aye, sir." Tim did his best to salute without bumping any of the brass instruments that protruded into the small bridge space.
He turned to leave. "Barnabas." The captain's voice halted him.
"Sir." Tim halted.
"The Underpeople have more tunnels, and locks, and secret ways than the king's men know about, boy," the captain said, reaching out to squeeze his shoulder gently but firmly. "It's our home, our territory; we know it. It's not the first time Duke Malcolm's had a go at us. And it won't be the last. Now get along with you."
Tim swallowed. Nodded. He couldn't actually say anything, because his voice was too choked up. He turned away before the captain could see the tears starting, and hurried along the narrow gangway, and then down the ladder to the lower deck. At the base of it he nearly ran smash into something that had no place on a submarine.
A girl. A girl in a flouncy dress with silly little puff sleeves. Honestly! Where did she think she was? On a pleasure barge cruising along Pall Mall Canal?
"Hi, hold on," she said, grabbing his arm as he tried to squirm past. Her blue eyes were bright and wide with excitement, and one of her pale blonde plaits had come undone. She brushed the fine hair away from her eyes, "What's going on?" she asked, smiling at him.
"I'm busy," he said gruffly, hoping that he'd wiped all trace of the tears away. "Got to get to the engine room."
"Oh, it's so important that you are," she said, teasingly. "Just tell me what the bang was?"
"The Inniskillens blowing up my home," he said fiercely as he pulled his arm free and blundered on, blinded by the tears again, down the passage.
* * *
Clara Calland stared after him. She nearly ran after him too, to ask him what he meant. But ... horrible snotty London boy. He'd looked nice, with a bit of a grin on his brownish face, when she'd seen him earlier, bringing their two small valises to the cabin. And he'd helped to carry Mother's book trunk. When you considered the size of the cabin, maybe it was just as well they'd had to leave everything behind.
She considered going up the ladder to find someone else to ask. But ... it sounded like trouble. More trouble. She'd been so relieved when they had finally got out of the smelly, wet tunnels under London, and into this strange submarine. The whole idea just fascinated her. Of course, submarines were something she'd heard stories about, and hadn't ever expected to really experience. They were illegal, banned in all civilized countries. Yet ... everyone knew they existed. One of the girls from school, one of the Cashel sisters, claimed that she'd once seen one in Tralee Bay. Which was possible ... anything could happen down in Kerry. It was crock full of rebels, down there, like Cork used to be before most of the city got drowned. She swallowed. Daddy had once let slip that his trips away had taken him to Kerry. She'd said that she hoped he was safe from those rebel scum. He'd just tousled her hair and laughed. That was before the men from Scotland Yard had come and taken him to the New East Barracks military prison, to be detained indefinitely at His Majesty's pleasure.
She stared blindly down the narrow little passage. She didn't want to be here. She wanted her old, familiar life back again. Mother and Dad together again, home and school and ...
That was where it broke down. Clara, who always tried to be honest with herself, had to admit that she did not want her school life back. Nor did she want to go back to the tall, cold house on Redmond Street that they'd been living in when her life had suddenly turned upside down.
So, instead, she went back through the narrow little steel door and climbed up onto her bunk in their broom-cupboard-sized cabin. On the bed below, her mother was asleep, the deep sleep of absolute exhaustion, and, Clara realised, of relief.
Clara lay down on the thin horse-hair mattress and thought back about just how they'd ended up here. Parts of it cut at her like a knife.
Excerpted from CUTTLEFISH by Dave Freer Copyright © 2012 by Dave Freer. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted January 11, 2013
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Dave Freer's Cuttlefish is absolutely astonishing! It's 1953 and the world is severely altered by the effects of the Melt. Parts of London are underwater, where old tunnels are inhabited by the Underpeople, and the western part of Australia is dry and sandy. The novel will entertain readers of all ages with it's underwater adventure, humor, and intriguing alternate history. The friendships forged over the course of the novel will no doubt extend to the readers who won't help but become fascinated by the variety of characters and backgrounds.
Clara Calland, the bookish outcast of St. Margaret's School for the Children of Officers and Gentleman, embarks on a terrifying journey that takes her and her mother, Dr. Calland, from Ireland to the dry country of Westralia. She finds a place with the crew of an illegal submarine, learning navigation and doing certain chores as if she were a cabin boy herself. While aboard the Cuttlefish, Clara becomes fast friends with cabin boy, Tim Barnabas. Tim grew up in London's underwater tunnels, taking on a submariner job at the urging of his mother so that he would always have food. He proves to be brave, trustworthy to Clara and his superiors and an excellent submariner. Freer takes a very interesting turn when it comes to this character. Tim is persecuted and called "darkie" because of his mixed heritage. Though he was born in London, his father came from Jamaica and the fact that Tim is darker than the other crew members causes a few incidents of racism and prejudice. Tim's character and his friendship with Clara is another layer added to Cuttlefish's deeply layered plot.
Tim and Clara's friendship is the most steadily constant during a tremulous time. Clara and Dr. Calland are stuck in a cat and mouse game, running from the Mensheviks and the British Imperial Intelligence, headed by Duke Malcolm. Yet, here are these two young teens who hardly panic in stressful situations and both cherish their growing relationship. Clara stands up for Tim when he's wrongly accused of thievery, and Tim backs up Clara in whatever crazy plots she comes up with. Cuttlefish is exciting for all the action and suspense, and even more so for the blend of steampunk, historical fiction, and science fiction elements. Pick up a copy of Cuttlefish and you won't put it down until the last page is read!
*Book provided via publisher in exchange for an honest review*
Also posted on Lovey Dovey Books
Posted July 18, 2012
I love this book. Dave Freer took one of those teeny tiny instances that shape the world and used it as a point to shift an entire timeline. Along the way he created a great cast, a fascinating set of world governments, chained them to a strong plot and took me on a world tour.
Must read for all ages.