Liberator

( 5 )

Overview

Equality remains elusive in this stunning steampunk sequel to Worldshaker.

In the aftermath of the events of Worldshaker, the Filthies control the massive juggernaut, now called Liberator. Many members of the former upper class, called Swanks, have remained behind to help teach them how to operate the juggernaut and to build a new society together. But all is not idyllic aboard Liberator.

A saboteur seems determined to drive up anti-Swank ...

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Overview

Equality remains elusive in this stunning steampunk sequel to Worldshaker.

In the aftermath of the events of Worldshaker, the Filthies control the massive juggernaut, now called Liberator. Many members of the former upper class, called Swanks, have remained behind to help teach them how to operate the juggernaut and to build a new society together. But all is not idyllic aboard Liberator.

A saboteur seems determined to drive up anti-Swank sentiment among the more volatile Filthy factions. And the Swanks are finding that their best efforts to work with the Filthies are being tossed aside. Even Col, who thought his relationship with Riff was rock solid, is starting to see their friendship crumbling before him. As tensions run high and coal supplies run low, Liberator is on the verge of a crisis. Can Col and Riff unify their divided people before disaster strikes?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A breathless ride....there are pleasures to be found here."—Kirkus Reviews

"Lovers of steampunk or dystopia will enjoy this fast-paced story."—School Library Journal

VOYA - Summer Hayes
Just a few short months ago, Colbert Porpentine was destined to become the leader of Worldshaker, a colossal ship the size of a city, but after the revolution in which the slave-laboring Filthies liberated the ship from the upper-class Swanks, Col has suddenly found himself unneeded and unwanted by the Filthies he helped set free. Even Riff, whose life he saved and who he thought shared his romantic feelings, has become increasingly distant. As Worldshaker tries to find its way as the newly christened Liberator, Col and a handful of others hope to erase the old class tensions, but the rising popularity of a fanatical group of Filthies is threatening to derail all hopes of democracy and equality. Readers jumping into the series with Liberator will be able to follow the story lines without difficulty, although questions about the larger context will likely arise as the backstory is unexplained. Primary characters are distinct but fairly stock, and minor ones are frequently reduced to caricatures. Col and Riff are sympathetic but lack adequate spark, and the characters' emotions and motivations are explained through text rather than shown through actions or dialogue. While rapid pacing and short chapters help keep things moving, the excessive length may fail to keep readers engaged, and convenient plot twists result in some very easy conflict resolutions and an overall lack of tension and excitement. Readers seeking a mix of steampunk and alternate history would be better served by Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series. Reviewer: Summer Hayes
School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—In this complex sequel to Worldshaker (S & S, 2010), the juggernaut has been rechristened Liberator after the successful coup orchestrated by Col, a Swank, and Riff and her fellow Filthies. Society used to be stratified by what level of a ship a person lived on and, unfortunately, class tensions have risen between the now-ruling Filthies, who were once the underclass, and the deposed Swanks, who were once the ruling class, and someone begins sabotaging the ship. When a Revolutionary Council member is killed, his replacement, Lye, a Filthy, quickly reveals her virulent hatred of all Swanks. A security force is formed and anti-Swank aggression escalates. Col's overtures to Riff are returned coldly. Coal stores that power the juggernaut are running low so the Liberator must stop at a refueling station but, by doing so, they risk discovery of their revolution by the imperialist forces of various nations. There are a lot of plot threads, but by the book's end, Harland has them neatly wrapped up, setting the groundwork for the next in the series or allowing the crew to sail into the sunset. Although there is some backstory woven in, it's never entirely clear what led to the creation of the juggernauts and the radical caste system that they employ; those who haven't read the Worldshaker (S & S, 2010) may be a bit lost. With that caveat, established fans, enthusiasts of Philip Reeve's "Mortal Engines" series (HarperCollins), and lovers of steampunk or dystopia will enjoy this fast-paced story.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
Kirkus Reviews
The second of Harland's steampunk series initially trades in action for romance but eventually regains its footing. After the Filthies revolted, Col Porpentine and his family were among the few swanks to stay aboard the juggernaut now called the Liberator. But the new regime has troubles galore: A saboteur stalks the halls, an anti-Swank zealot joins the Revolutionary Council and people are disappearing. It's hard for Col to maintain a blossoming romance with revolutionary Filthy Riff in this atmosphere, and that's before the imperial juggernauts of other nations converge upon the Liberator. Harland avoids subtlety, preferring instead to spell out every action. As a result the pace turns glacial when the writing turns to matters of the heart, but when the action gets going, it's a breathless ride. Almost everyone here has stepped out of central casting, the mechanics of the world don't entirely make sense (although it sounds cool) and the conflicts resolve too easily. Delightful moments abound, however, and the good guys always win, while the baddies are fun to hate and occasionally pity. The climactic fomenting of revolution aboard the Russian juggernaut is a win that leaves open the possibility of another volume. Despite the flaws, there are pleasures to be found here, primarily for fans of the first volume. (Steampunk. 11-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442423343
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 4/16/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 487
  • Sales rank: 261,764
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Harland is the author of many fantasy, horror, and science fiction novels for young readers, including Worldshaker, Liberator, the Eddon and Vail series, the Heaven and Earth Trilogy, and the Wolf Kingdom quartet, which won the Aurealis Award. He lives in Australia. Visit him at RichardHarland.net.

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Read an Excerpt

1

Something bad had happened on First Deck. The news traveled the length and breadth of the iron juggernaut: from the storage decks to the old Imperial Staterooms, from the coal bunkers on Bottom Deck to the bridge on Fifty-fourth Deck. The saboteur had struck again, and the Revolutionary Council had called a general meeting of Filthies in the Grand Assembly Hall.

In the Norfolk Library, Col Porpentine and his family looked at one another with dismay.

“They never called a general meeting before,” said Orris Porpentine.

Col nodded. “Must be worse than ordinary sabotage.”

“I’m going to the meeting,” said Gillabeth. “I’ll find out.” She thrust out her jaw in characteristic Porpentine fashion—unstoppable as the mighty steam-powered juggernaut itself.

Col’s mother fluttered in ineffectual protest. “But it’s so . . . so dangerous, dear. Wouldn’t you rather stay safe in here?”

“They need me,” said Gillabeth.

Col’s sister took her role as adviser to the Revolutionary Council very seriously. In the three months since the Liberation, she more than anyone had taught the Filthies how to drive the juggernaut over land and sea. But she overestimated her own importance, Col thought. The Filthies were fast learners and could do almost everything for themselves by now.

“I’ll go too,” he muttered, and followed her out of the library.

There was a great stir of Filthies in the corridors—countless hurrying footsteps, a murmur like an ocean, and grim, set faces in the yellowish light. They were all heading one way, toward the Grand Assembly Hall.

Gillabeth inserted herself into the flow, and Col trailed in her wake. The Filthies ignored them and made no eye contact. A few times Col heard the scornful word “Swanks” directed at their backs. It was the Filthies’ name for those Upper Decks people who had chosen to stay on after the Liberation. Col bristled at the word, though it was hardly worse than “Filthies” as a name for those who had once been trapped Below.

Everything had gone downhill over the past three months. Col and Riff had dreamed of a golden age of harmony and cooperation between Filthies and Upper Decks people. The change to the juggernaut’s name said it all: from Worldshaker to Liberator, from tyranny to freedom. But it hadn’t happened. Instead of harmony there was distrust; instead of freedom the Swanks lived in restricted ghettos. And all because of this saboteur . . .

It had to be somebody who’d stayed on out of a desire for revenge. But who? And why should all Swanks be blamed?

The Grand Assembly Hall was on Forty-fourth Deck, the same level as the Norfolk Library. When Col and his sister entered, it was already packed full. Gillabeth plowed her way forward through the crowd.

The hall was a vast oval with white marble columns and a high domed ceiling. In the days before the Liberation it had served mostly for balls and receptions, bedecked with flowers, urns, sculptures, and streamers. Col remembered his own wedding reception here, after his arranged marriage to Sephaltina Turbot. Now, though, it was a more utilitarian space that served for public and political meetings. Only the chandelier remained as a witness to past splendor: a shimmering pyramid of light and glass.

The press of Filthies grew thicker as they advanced. Halfway to the front Col decided it was time to stop.

“Far enough,” he said, and halted beside a column.

Whether Gillabeth heard or not, she pushed on regardless. Hostile glares followed her as she elbowed her way to a position ten paces from the front, where four members of the Council stood facing the crowd. Riff, Dunga, Padder, and Gansy were there, but not Shiv or Zeb. Gansy was the new member voted in to replace Fossie, who had been killed at the time of the Liberation.

Col tuned his attention to the voices talking in low tones all around. He caught a mention of Zeb and a mention of Shiv, but he couldn’t hear what was being said about them. Why weren’t they present in the hall?

He recognized a face he knew in a group nearby. It was one of the young Filthies who’d fought beside him when he and Riff had stopped Sir Mormus Porpentine from blowing up the juggernaut. He hoped the boy would remember.

“What’s the sabotage this time?” he asked.

The boy turned and recognized him—Col saw the look of recognition in his eyes. Instead of answering, however, he glowered at Col in silent condemnation. Col’s past deeds on behalf of the revolution counted for nothing. The boy curled his lip and turned away again.

It was like a sudden drop in temperature. The mood among the Filthies was ugly in a way that Col had never seen before. Something had changed; some boundary had been crossed. What could have happened that was so bad?

He rose on his toes and scanned the crowd. At sixteen he was already tall—taller than most adult male Swanks. Compared to the Swanks the Filthies tended to be short and lean, a result of their previous living conditions Below. They no longer wore rags, but simple tops or undershirts and baggy pants. They had never taken to the more formal fashions of the Upper Decks.

There were only two other Swanks in the hall: Col’s old teacher, Mr. Bartrim Gibber, and his old headmaster, Dr. Blessamy. They were standing off to the side, and Col wondered why they had turned up at all. Mr. Gibber had always taken a very low view of Filthies in his lessons.

“Be patient, everyone. Shiv will be here soon. Please clear a way.”

Riff was addressing the meeting on behalf of the Revolutionary Council. Col spun to face the front, and his heart leaped at the sight of her. Huge, dark eyes, mobile mouth, hair that was black in some places and blond in others—she was as amazing as that very first time when she’d begged to hide in his bedroom.

Right now, though, there was a curious catch in her throat. And when he looked, weren’t those patches of wet on her cheeks? Why? Tears over an act of sabotage?

He learned the reason a minute later. There was a disturbance at the back of the hall as a new group entered. The crowd opened up a path for them to come forward to the front.

It was a procession of half a dozen Filthies, with Shiv at their head. They supported a makeshift stretcher of netting and poles. A heavy, lumpish shape sagged down between the poles, under a bloodstained cloth.

The crowd broke out in a hubbub of cries and moans and groans. Gripped by a dreadful foreboding, Col wished he could look away—but he couldn’t. The bloodstained cloth wasn’t large enough to cover the body properly, and the man’s feet stuck out at one end, his head at the other.

The eyes were glassy and staring, the mouth wide and slack; the back of the skull had been smashed to a pulp. The face belonged to Zeb of the Revolutionary Council.

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