The air pirate Andan Cly is going straight. Well, straighter. Although he's happy to run alcohol guns wherever the money's good, he doesn't think the world needs more sap, or its increasingly ugly side-effects. But becoming legit is easier said than done, and Cly's first legal giga supply run for the Seattle Undergroundwill be paid for by sap money.
New Orleans is not Cly's first pick for a shopping run. He loved the Big Easy once, back when he also loved a beautiful mixed-race prostitute named Josephine Earlybut that was a decade ago, and he hasn't looked back since. Jo's still thinking about him, though, or so he learns when he gets a telegram about a peculiar piloting job. It's a chance to complete two lucrative jobs at once, one he can't refuse. He sends his old paramour a note and heads for New Orleans, with no idea of what he's in foror what she wants him to fly.
But he won't be flying. Not exactly. Hidden at the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain lurks an astonishing war machine, an immense submersible called the Ganymede. This prototype could end the war, if only anyone had the faintest idea of how to operate it…. If only they could sneak it past the Southern forces at the mouth of the Mississippi River… If only it hadn't killed most of the men who'd ever set foot inside it.
But it's those "if onlys" that will decide whether Cly and his crew will end up in the history books, or at the bottom of the ocean.
About the Author
Cherie Priest is the author of Dreadnought and Boneshaker, which was nominated for a Nebula and Hugo Award, won the Locus Award for best science-fiction novel, and was named Steampunk Book of the Year by steampunk.com. She is also the author of the near-contemporary fantasy Fathom, and she debuted to great acclaim with Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Wings to the Kingdom, and Not Flesh Nor Feathers, a trilogy of Southern Gothic ghost stories featuring heroine Eden Moore. Born in Tampa, Florida, Priest earned her master's in rhetoric at the University of Tennessee. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband, Aric, and a fat black cat named Spain.
Read an Excerpt
"Croggon Hainey sends his regards, but he isn't up for hire," Josephine Early declared grimly as she crumpled the telegram in her fist. She flicked the wad of paper into the tiny round wastebin beside her desk and took a deep breath that came out in a hard sigh. "So we'll have to find another pilot, goddammit."
"Ma'am, the airyard's full of pilots," her assistant, Marylin Quantrill, replied.
She leaned back in her seat and tapped her fingers on the chair's armrest. "Not pilots like him."
"Hainey ... he's a colored fellow, isn't he? One of the Macon Madmen?"
"Yes, and he's the best flier I know. But I can't blame him for turning us down. It's asking a lot, for him to come so far south while he's still wantedand we don't have the money to pay him what he's worth, much less compensate him for the extra danger."
Marylin nodded, disappointed but understanding. "It didn't hurt to ask."
"No. And if it were me, I wouldn't take the job either." Josephine ceased her tapping and shifted her weight, further wedging her voluminous blue dress into the narrow confines of the worn mahogany chair's rigid arms. "But I sure was hoping he'd say yes. He's perfect for the job, and perfect doesn't come along every day. We won't find anyone half so perfect hanging about the airyard, I can tell you that much. We need a man with excellent flying skillsand absolutely no loyalty to the Republic or the Confederacy. And that, my dear, will be the trouble."
"Is there anyone else we could ask, anyone farther afield?"
"No one springs to mind," Josephine murmured.
Marylin pressed on. "It might not matter, anyway. It could be Rucker Little is right, and a pilot won't have any better luck than a seaman."
"It'd be hard for anyone, anywhere, to fail so spectacularly as that last batch of sailors."
"Not all of them drowned."
"Four out of five isn't anything to crow about."
"I suppose not, ma'am." Marylin lowered her eyes and fiddled with her gloves. She didn't often wear gloves, given the heat and damp of the delta, but the elbow-length silk pair with tiny pearl buttons had been a gift from a customer, and he'd requested specifically that she wear them tonight. Her hair was done up in a twisted set of plaits and set with an ostrich feather. The yellow dress she wore cost only half what the gloves did, but they complemented each other all the same.
Josephine vowed, "I'll find someone else, and I'll show Mr. Mumler that I'm right. They're going about that machine all wrong, I just know it. All I need is a pilot to prove it."
"But you have to admit," the younger woman carefully ventured, "it sounds strange, wanting an airman for a ... for whatever it is, there in the lake."
"Sometimes a strangely shaped problem requires a strangely shaped solution, dear. So here's what we'll do for now: Tomorrow afternoon, you take one of the other girlsHazel or Ruthie, maybeand you go down to the airyard and keep your eyes open."
"Open for what?"
"Anyone who isn't Southern or Texian. Look for foreigners who stand out from the usual crowdignore the English and the islanders, we don't want them. We want people who don't care aboutthe war, and who aren't taking sides. Tradesmen, merchants, or pirates."
"I don't know about pirates, ma'am. They scare me, I don't mind saying."
Josephine said, "Hainey's a pirate, and I'd trust him enough to employ him. Pirates come in different sorts like everybody else, and I'll settle for one if I have to. But don't worry. I wouldn't ask you to go down to the bay or barter with the Lafittes. If our situation turns out to call for a pirate, I'll go get one myself."
"Thank you, ma'am."
"Let's consider Barataria a last resort. We aren't up to needing last resorts. Not yet. The craft is barely in working order, and Chester says it'll be a few days before it's dried out enough to try again. When it works, and when we have someone who can consistently operate it without drowning everyone inside it, then we'll move it. We have to get it to the Gulf, and we'll have to do it right the first time. We won't get a second chance."
"No, ma'am, I don't expect we will," Marylin agreed. Then she changed the subject. "Begging your pardon, ma'ambut do you have the time?"
"The time? Oh, yes." Josephine reached into her front left pocket and retrieved a watch. It was an engineer's design with a glass cutout in the cover, allowing her to see the hour at a glance. "It's ten till eight. Don't worry, your meeting with Mr. Spring has not been compromisedthough, knowing him, he's already waiting downstairs."
"I think he rather likes me, ma'am."
"I expect he does. And with that in mind, be careful, Marylin."
"I'm always careful."
"You know what I mean."
She rose from her seat and asked, "Is there anything else?"
Therefore, with a quick check of her hair in the mirror by thedoor, Marylin Quantrill exited the office on the fourth floor of the building known officially as the Garden Court Boarding House for Ladies, and unofficially as "Miss Early's Place," home of "Miss Early's Girlies."
Josephine did not particularly care for the unofficial designation, but there wasn't much to be done about it now. A name with a rhyme sticks harder than sun-dried tar.
But quietly, bitterly, Josephine saw no logical reason why a woman in her forties should be referred to with the same address as a toddler, purely because she'd never married. Furthermore, she employed no "girlies." She took great pains to see to it that her ladies were precisely that: ladies, well informed and well educated. Her ladies could read and write French as well as English, and some of them spoke Spanish, too; they took instruction on manners, sewing, and cooking. They were young women, yes, but they were not frivolous children, and she hoped that they would have skills to support themselves upon leaving the Garden Court Boarding House.
All the Garden Court ladies were free women of color.
It was Josephine's experience that men liked nothing better than variety, and that no two men shared precisely the same tastes. With that in mind, she'd recruited fourteen women in a spectrum of skin tones, ranging from two very dark Caribbean natives to several lighter mixes like Marylin, who could have nearly passed for white. Josephine herself counted an eighth of her own ancestry from Africa, courtesy of a great-grandmother who'd come to New Orleans aboard a ship called the Adelaide. At thirteen, her grandmother had been bought to serve as a maid, and at fourteen, she'd birthed her first child, Josephine's mother.
And so forth, and so on.
Josephine was tall and lean, with skin like tea stirred with milk. Her forehead was high and her lips were full, and although she looked her age, she wore all forty-two years with grace. It was true that in her maturity she'd slipped from "beautiful" to merely "pretty,"but she anticipated another ten years before sliding down to the dreaded "handsome."
She looked again at the watch, and at the wastebin holding the unfortunate telegram, and she wondered what on earth she was going to do now. Major Alcock was expecting a report on her mission's progress, and Admiral Partridge had made clear that it wasn't safe to keep the airship carrier Valiant too close to the delta for very long. Texas wouldn't tolerate itthey'd chase the big ship back out to sea like a flock of crows harrying an eagle.
She had until the end of May. No longer.
That left not quite four weeks to figure out a number of things which had gone years without having been figured out thus far.
"Ganymede," she said under her breath, "I will find someone to fly you."
All she needed was a pilot willing to risk his life in a machine that had killed seventeen men to date; brave the Mississippi River as it went past Forts Jackson and Saint Philip and all the attending Rebels and Texians therein; and kindly guide it out into the Gulf of Mexico past half a dozen Confederate warshipsall the while knowing the thing could explode, suffocate everyone inside, or sink to the ocean bottom at any moment.
Was it really so much to ask?
The Union thought she was out of her mind, and though they wanted the scuttled craft, they couldn't see paying yet another seventeen men to die for it. Therefore, any further salvage efforts must come out of Josephine's own pocket. But her pockets weren't as deep as the major seemed to think, and the cost of hiring a highlevel mercenary for such a mission was well outside her reach.
Even if she knew another pilot half so good as Croggon Hainey, and without any allegiance to the occupying Republicans or the Confederates, a month might not be enough time to fetch him, prepare him, and test him.
She squeezed her watch and popped it open. The gears inside flipped, swayed, and spun.
But on second thought ...
She'd told Marylin she didn't know any other pilots. The lie had slipped off her tongue as if it'd been greased, or as if she'd only forgotten it wasn't true, but there was someone else.
It wasn't worth thinking about. After all, it'd been years since last she saw himsince she even thought about him. Had he gone back West? Had he married, and raised a family? Would he come if she summoned him? For all she knew, he wasn't even alive anymore. Not every maneven a man like Andan Clysurvives a pirate's career.
"He's probably dead," Josephine told herself. "Long gone, I'm sure."
She wasn't sure.
She looked back at the wastebin, and she realized that with one more telegram, she could likely find out.
Croggon Hainey frequented the Northwest corners, didn't he? And Cly had come from a wretched, wet backwater of a port called ... what was it again? Oh, yes: Seattleout in the Washington Territory, as far away from New Orleans as a man could get while staying on colonial turf.
"No coincidence, that," she said to the empty room, realizing she flattered herself to think so. Well, so what? Then she flattered herself. She wasn't the first.
Downstairs, something fell heavily, or something large was thrown and landed with a muffled thunk.
Josephine's ears perked, and she briefly forgot about the wastebin, the telegram, and potential news of long-ago lovers from distant hinterlands. She listened hard, hoping to hear nothing more without daring to assume it.
The Garden Court Boarding House was different from many bordellos, but not so different that there were never problems: drunk men, or cruel men who wanted more than they were willing to buy. Josephine did her best to screen out the worst, and she prided herself on both the quality of her ladies and the relative peace of herestablishment; even so, it was never far from her mind how quickly things could turn, and how little it would take for the French Quarter to remember that she was only a colored woman, and not necessarily entitled to own things, much less protect them, preserve them, and use them for illicit activities.
It was a line she walked every night, between legitimate businesswoman performing a service for the community of soldiers, sailors, merchants, and planters ... and the grandchild of slaves, who could become a slave herself again simply by crossing the wrong state lines.
Louisiana wasn't safe, not for her or any of her ladies. Maybe not for anybody.
But this was Josephine's house, and she guarded it with all the ferocity and cunning of a mother fox. So when she heard the noise downstairs, she listened hard, willing innocent silence to follow, but suspecting the worst and preparing herself accordingly.
In the top left drawer of her battered, antique, secondhand desk, she kept a .44-caliber Schofielda Smith & Wesson revolver she'd nicknamed "Little Russia." It was loaded, as always. She retrieved it and pushed the desk drawer shut again.
It was easy to hide the weapon behind her skirts. People don't expect a left-handed woman, and no one expects to be assaulted by anyone in a fancy gownwhich was one more good reason to wear them all the time.
Out past the paneled office door she swept, and down the redcarpeted runner to the end of the hall, where a set of stairs curved down to all three lower levels, flanked by a banister that was polished weekly and gleamed under the skimming touch of Josephine's hand. The commotion was on the second floor, or so her ears told her as she drew up nearer.
The location was a good thing, insofar as any commotion was ever good. Far better than if it were taking place down in the lobby. It's bad for business, and bad for covering up trouble, should a cover-up be required. At street level, people could squint and peekpast the gossamer curtains, trying to focus on the slivers of light inside and the women who lived within.
At street level, there could be witnesses.
Josephine was getting ahead of herself, and she knew it. She always got ahead of herself, but that's how she'd stayed alive and in charge this long, so she couldn't imagine slowing down anytime soon. Instead she held the Schofield with a cool, loose grip. She felt the gun's weight as a strange, foreign thing against her silk overskirts, where she buried it out of sight. As she'd learned one evening in her misspent youth at the notorious pirate call of Barataria, she need not brandish a gun to fire it. It'd shoot just fine through a petticoat, and knock a hole in a man all the same. It would ruin the skirts, to be certain, but those were trade-offs a woman could make in the name of survival.
Down on the second-floor landing, she stepped off the stairs so swiftly, she seemed to be moving on wings or wheels. She brought herself up short just in time to keep from running into the Texian Fenn Calais.
A big man in his youth, Mr. Calais was now a soft man, with cheeks blushed pink from years of alcohol and a round, friendly face that had become well known to ladies of the Garden Court. Delphine Hoobler was under one of his arms, and Caroline Younger was hooked beneath the other.
"Evening, ma'am!" he said cheerfully. He was always cheerful. Suspiciously so, if you wanted Josephine's opinion on the matter, but Fenn was so well liked that no one ever did.
With her usual polite formality, she replied, "Good evening to you, Mr. Calais. I see you're being properly cared for. Is there anything I can get you, or anything further you require?"
Caroline flashed Josephine a serious look and a sharpened eyebrow. This was combined with a quick toss of her head and a laugh. "We'll keep an eye on him, Miss Josephine," she said lightly, but the urgent, somber gleam in her eyes didn't soften.
Josephine understood. She nodded. "Very well, then." She smiledand stepped aside, letting the three of them pass. When they were gone, she turned her attention to the far end of the corridor. Caroline and Delphine had been luring Fenn Calais away from something.
She could guess, even before she saw the window that hadn't been fully shut, and the swamp-mud scuff of a large man's shoe across the carpet runner.
With a glance over her shoulder to make sure the Texian was out of hearing range, she called softly, "Deaderick? That'd damned well better be you."
"It's me," he whispered back. He leaned out from the stairwell. "That Fenn fellow was passed out on the settee with a drink in his hand. I thought I could sneak past without waking him up, but he sleeps lighter than he looks."
She exhaled, relieved. She wedged Little Russia into her skirt pocket. "Delphine and Carrie took care of him."
"Yeah, I saw." He looked back and forth down the hall. Seeing no one but his sister, he relaxed enough to leave his hiding place.
Deaderick Early was a tall man, and lean like his sister, though darker in complexion. They had only a mother in common, and Deaderick was several shades away from Josephine's paler skin. His hair was thick and dense, and black as ink. He let it grow into long locks that dangled below his ears.
"You're lucky it was only Fenn. He's easily distracted and probably too drunk to recognize you."
"Still, I didn't mean to take the chance."
She sighed and rubbed at her forehead, then leaned back against the wall and eyed him tiredly. "What are you doing here, Rick? You know I don't like it when you come to town. I worry about you."
"You don't worry about me living camped in a swamp?"
"In the swamp you're armed, and with your men. Here you're alone, and you're visible. Anyone could see you, point you out, and have you taken away." She blinked back the dampness that filledher eyes. "With every chance you take, the odds stack higher against you."
"That may be, but we need soap, salt, and coffee. For that matter, a little rum would make me a popular man, and we could stand to have a better doctor's kit," he added, looking down at an ugly swath of inflamed skin on his armcaused, no doubt, by the stinging things that buzzed in the bayou. "But also, I came to bring you this."
From the back pocket of his pants, he produced an envelope that had been sealed and folded in half. "It might help your pilot, if you ever find one."
"What is it?"
"Schematics from a footlocker at the Pontchartrain base. It's got Hunley's writing on it. I think it's a sketch for the steering mechanism, and part of the propulsion system. Or that's what Chester and Honeyfolk said, and I'm prepared to take their word for it."
"Neither one of them needs it?" She slipped the envelope down into her cleavage, past her underwear's stays.
"They've already taken that section apart and put it all back together. It doesn't hold any secrets for an engineer, but a pilot who wants to know what he's getting himself into ... this might come in handy. Or it might not, if you have to trick someone into taking the job."
A loud cough of laughter came from upstairs, and the whump of heavy footsteps. The siblings looked up to the ceiling, as if it could tell them anything; but Josephine said, "Fenn again, heading to the water closet. Listen, we should go outside. Out back it's quiet, and even if someone sees you, it'll be too dark for anyone to recognize you."
"Fine, if that's what you want." He pushed the back stairway door open and held it for her, letting her lead the way.
Down they went, her soft, quiet house slippers making no noise at all, and his dirty leather boots trailing a muffled drumbeat in her wake. At the bottom, she unlocked the back door and pushed it. It moaned on its hinges, scraping trash and mud with its bottom edge.
It opened, letting them both outside into the night.
The alley itself was dark and wet, smelling of vomit, urine, and horse manure. Overhead the moon hung low and very white, but they barely noticed it over the grumbling music, swearing sailors, drunken planters, and the late-night calls of newspaper boys trawling for pennies before closing up shop. The gas lamps on Rue des Ursulines gave the whole night a ghostly wash, leaving the shadows sharp and black between the lacy Old World buildings of the Vieux Carré, and leaving Josephine and Deaderick as close to alone as they could expect to find themselves.
Josephine swatted at her brother's vest pocket, the place where he always kept tobacco and papers. He took the hint, retrieved his pouch, and began to roll two cigarettes between his fingers. "It's a good thing that dumb bastard let himself be dragged away so easy."
"Like I said, you were lucky. Some of the younger men lounge around armed, and after a few drinks, they're quick to draw. Fenn's not dumb, but he's harmless. Even if he'd seen youeven if he'd recognized youwe might've been able to buy him off."
"You'd trust some old Texian?"
"That one?" Josephine took the cigarette he offered and waited for him to light it. She gently sucked it to life, and the smell of tobacco wafted up her nose, down her throat. It took the edge off the mulchy odor of the alley. "Maybe. I don't think he'd make any trouble for us. He'd die of sorrow if we told him he wasn't welcome anymore."
Deaderick lit his own cigarette and stepped onto a higher corner of the curb, dodging a rivulet of running gutter water. "You making friends with Republicans now? Next thing I hear, you'll be cozying up to the Rebs."
"You shut your mouth," she whispered hard. "All I'm telling you is that Fenn spends more time at the Court than he does at his own home, assuming he has one. He's sweet on Delphine and Ruthie in particular, and he won't go talking if he thinks we'll keep him from coming back."
"If you say so." He sighed and asked quietly, "Any chance you heard from that pilot friend of yours? The man from Georgiacould you talk him into it?"
"He can't make it, so now I've got to find someone else. I'm working on it, all right? I've already talked to Marylin, and tomorrow she'll take Ruthie over to the airyard to look around."
"There's nothing but Republicans and Rebs down at the airyard. You'd have better luck in Barataria. Not that I'm suggesting it."
She snorted, and a puff of smoke coiled out her nostril. "Don't think I haven't considered it. But I want to check the straight docks first, all the same. Times are hard all over. We might find foreignersor maybe Westernersdesperate enough to take the job."
"How much money you offering?"
"Not enough. But between me and the girls, we might be able to negotiate. There's always wiggle room. I've talked it over with those who can be trusted, and they're game as me to pool our resources."
"I don't want to hear about that," Deaderick said stiffly.
"I suppose you don't, but that doesn't change anything. If we can get this done between us, it'll all be worth it. Every bit of it, even the unpleasant parts. We're all making sacrifices, Rick. Don't act like it's a walk in the park for you and the boys, because I know it isn't."
Life was hard outside the city, in the swamps where the guerrillas lurked, and poached, and picked off Confederates and Texians whenever they could. It was written all over her brother's flesh, in the insect bites and scrapes of thorns. The story was told in the rips that had been patched and repatched on his homespun pants, and in the linen shirt with its round wood buttonsnone of which matched.
But she was proud of him, desperately so. And she was made all the prouder just by looking at him and knowing that they were all struggling, certainlybut her little brother, fully ten years her junior, was in charge of a thirty-man company, and quietly paid by the Union besides. He drew a real salary in Federal silver, everythree months like clockwork. Out of sight, at the edge of civilization, he was fighting for them allfor her, for the colored girls at the Garden Court, and for the Union, which would be whole again, one of these days.
And just like her, he was fighting for New Orleans, which deserved better than to have Texas squat upon it with its guns, soldiers, and Confederate allegiance.
Deaderick gazed at his sister over the tiny red coal of his smoldering cigarette. "It can't go on like this much longer. These ... these" He gestured at the alley's entrance, where a large Texian machine was gargling, grumbling, and rolling, its lone star insignia visible as it shuddered past, and was gone. "vermin. I want them out of my city."
"Most of them want out just as bad."
"Well, then, that's one thing we got in common. But I don't know why you have to run around defending them."
"Who's defending them? All I said in behalf of Fenn Calais is that he's an old whoremonger with no place left to hang his hat. I have a business to run, that's alland I don't get to pick my customers. Besides, the better the brown boys like us, the safer I stay," she insisted, using the Quarter's favorite ironic slang for the soldiers who, despite their dun-colored uniforms, were as white as sugar down to the last man. "I can't have their officers sniffing around, looking too close. Not while I'm courting the admiral, and not while you're running the bayou. As long as we keep them quiet and happy, they leave us alone."
"Except for the ones you treat to room and board," he sniffed. "You let that old fat one get too close. You call him harmless, but maybe he thinks like you do. Maybe he watches you send telegrams, or pass messages to me or Chester. Maybe he sees a scrap of paper in the trash, or overhears us talking some night. Then you'll sure as hell find out how far you can trust your resident Texian, won't you?"
It was something she'd privately wondered about sometimes,upon catching a glimpse of Fenn Calais's familiar form sauntering through the halls with Delphine, Ruthie, or a new girl hanging on his arm ... or drinking himself into a charmingly dignified stupor in one of the tower lounges. Occasionally it occurred to her that he could well be a spy, sent to watch her and the ladies. Spies were a fact of life in New Orleans, after allspies of every breed, background, quality, and style. The Republic of Texas had a few, though as an occupying force, they were all of them spies by default; the Confederacy kept a number on hand, to keep an eye on the Texians who were keeping an eye on things; and even the Union managed to plant a few here and there, keeping an eye on everyone else.
As Josephine would well know. She was on their payroll, too.
She dropped the last of her cigarette before it could burn her fingers, and she crushed its ashes underfoot on street stones that were slippery with humidity and the afternoon's rain. Her house slippers weren't made for outdoor excursions of even the briefest sort, and they'd never be the same againshe could sense it. Between her toes she felt the creeping damp of street water and regurgitated bourbon, runny horse droppings strung together with wads of brittle grass, and the warm, unholy squish of God-knew-what, which smelled like grave dirt and death.
"I don't like it out here," she said by way of changing the subject. "And I don't like you being here. Go home, Rick. Go back to the bayou, where you're safe."
"It's been good to see you, too."
"Just ... stay away from the river, will you?"
"I always do."
"Promise me, please?"
Down by the river and roaming the Quarter's darker corners, monstrous things waited, and were hungry. Or so the stories went.
"I promise. Even though I'm not afraid of a few dusters."
"I know you're not, but I am. I've seen them."
"So have I," he declared flippantly, which meant he was lying. He'd only heard about them.
"They aren't dusters," she muttered.
"Sure they are. Addicts gone feral, like cats. And you worry too much."
She almost accused him of lying, but decided against starting that particular fight. If anything, it was good that he was ignorant of the deador that's what she told herself. She'd be thrilled if he went his whole life without ever seeing one, even though it meant that he wrote them off as bedtime stories, designed to frighten naughty children.
He last lived in the Quarter ten years ago, before he'd headed off to fight. Back then, there hadn't been so many of them.
Deaderick didn't want to argue any more than Josephine did. "I'll stay away from the river, if it'll make you happy. And maybe I'll head out to Barataria myself, one of these days soon. We hit them up for discreet mechanics and supply fliers every now and again. While I'm there, I'll see if I can't spot any potential pilots for you."
"All right, but if you find anyone, be careful what you tell him. It's dangerous work we're asking for, but anybody we have to trick too badly won't do us any good, when push comes to shove. That's why I'm sending another few telegrams tonight. I've got somebody else in mind."
"I know of a man who might be good for the task. If I can find him. And if he's still alive. And if he can be persuaded to come within fifty feet of me."
Deaderick grinned at her. "Sounds promising."
"It's not promising, but it's better than nothing. We have to get that thing out of the lake. We have to get it out to sea, to the Federal Navy. Once they get a crack at it, it's just a matter of time. Ganymede could change everything."
"I know," her brother said, putting his arms around her. "And it will."
In the distance, a cheer went up and so did a small flarea littlerocket of a thing that cast a pink white trail of burning fire into the sky. A second cheer followed it, and the clapping of a crowd.
"Goddamn Texians," Josephine said wearily, the words garbled against his shoulder.
"What are they doing?"
"Tearing up the cathedral square, gambling on livestock, and shooting off fireworks. It isn't right."
Deaderick nodded, but noted, "You haven't been to church in half a lifetime."
"Still," she said, "that doesn't make it right, what they're doing over there."
A faintly burning chemical stink joined the city's odors, trapped in the humid fog of Gulf water and river water that crept through the Quarter like a warm, wet bath. Gunpowder and animals, men and women, alcohols sweet and sourbourbons brought from Kentucky, whiskeys imported from Tennessee, rums shipped in from the islands south of Florida, and grain distillations made in a neighbor's cast-iron tub. The night smelled of gun oil and saddles, and the jasmine colognes of the night ladies, or the violets and azaleas that hung from balconies in baskets; of berry liqueur and the verdant, herbal tang of absinthe delivered from crystal decanters, and the dried chilies hanging in the stalls of the French market, and powdered sugar and chicory.
Josephine leaned her head on Deaderick's shoulder as she hugged him good-bye. She breathed, "We're drowning like this, you know," and she saw him off with tears swallowed hard in the back of her throat.
Copyright © 2011 by Cherie Priest
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Andan Cly is an airship pirate who's trying to go straight. He just needs to do a black market run for the semi-criminal kingpin of underground Seattle, and smuggle a Confederate war machine to the Union forces, past the Texians occupying New Orleans. There's some romantic tension between him and Josephine Early, his ex lover and a current brothel owner, who called him to New Orleans to apply his piloting skills to a submarine, but he's sweet on Briar and determined to go home to her. The book is dedicated to those who should have been in the history books, with strong characters of colour and alternate sexuality. Josephine is better characterised for me, Andan doesn't seem to grow or change much. The action is exciting though, the stakes are high, and knowledge about the rotters/zombis is starting to spread.
Action, zombies, alternate history and steampunk mix with mostly interesting and strong characters in the latest entry in the Clockwork Century series. For some reason, I enjoyed it less than Boneshaker and Dreadnought though I can't really pinpoint why. There's lots going on and I was never bored; I enjoyed almost all of the characters although some never really grow or are shunted to the background. Still, the world-building and alternate history facets are as exciting and well-developed as always and the main story was tense and action-oriented (even though the ending was a bit hurried and too abrupt). Overall, I really enjoyed the book, just a bit uneven in some respects.
This was the fourth book in the Clockwork Century series. I have loved all of the books in this series and was eager to read this one. This one was good, but probably my least favorite of the bunch I didn't find the story or the characters as engaging as the first three books.Josephine Early has a secret, and it's not the fact that her Boarding House of Women is actually a mixed race bordello, no it's the fact that she is helping to get a war machine called the Ganymede out of the south and to the north to help the other side of the war. Trouble is Josephine needs someone to pilot the thing and being that Ganymede is the first submarine ever and that a number of people have died trying to pilot it she's having some trouble. Then she remembers Cly. Josephine and Cly have history, and since Cly's trying to give up pirating and straighten out his life this might be the perfect gig for him to start with.I love Priest's writing style; she has enough detail in there to really help the reader picture what's going on. I also love how she blends history, zombies, and steampunk elements together to create this awesome world. We meet Cly in Boneshaker and it was fun to read more about him. I love how the zombie issue is kind of woven into the back story and how, even though this is a serparate story from the first three books, it still has many elements of those books tied in with it.I did have some problems with this book too. Josephine wasn't my favorite character, I just had trouble engaging with her. This was odd because I usually love Priest's quirky, strong female leads. Josephine just rubbed me the wrong way though; she was too abrasive and too cold to be very likable. I liked Cly better, but he wasn't in the story nearly as much as Josephine. With Cly and Josephine's history together I expected them to interact more and have more tension, but this didn't really happen.I also enjoyed the number of social issues that are addressed in this book: issues of race, war, sexual orientation, etc are discussed and interesting points are brought up. Nothing incredibly unique, but there is some food for thought there. I was a little surprised when one of the characters was revealed to be transexual...mostly because I didn't understand how it added to the story, the way this was revealed at the end was a bit odd. I am wondering if that will carry on to the next book or if it was just included for novelty.I also had some problems with the plot. There is a lot going on in this book but the overall premise and goal of the book was pretty simple; to get the Ganymede out of the marsh and into the river to deliver to the other side of the war. This is the main issue the whole book deals with and at times I found it to be a bit tedious. I understand that the Ganymede was supposed to provide a turning point for the war; I just didn't find it all that interesting. Maybe it's because I am not a history buff and don't like war stories all that much; but I thought this book had a lot less adventure and steampunk elements than previous books in this series and a lot more tactics and war games.Overall this was a very good book, but not the strongest in this series. I didn't think the characters were as admirable as in previous books, I also found the overall premise of getting a war machine from one place to another to be a bit tedious and boring at times. This is an excellent world though and I still find it intriguing. I enjoy Priest's writing style and the intricacy of her descriptions a lot. I look forward to reading Inexplicable when it releases in 2012.
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)Regular readers will of course already be familiar with Cherie Priest's remarkable steampunk series known as "The Clockwork Century;" back in 2009 I reviewed the first volume Boneshaker (best described as Victorian zombies meet Doom-style videogame in the bowels of subterranean Seattle), while last year I took on Dreadnought, in which we follow a souped-up locomotive as it winds its way across the Great Plains, deals with a now two-decade-long Civil War, and confronts giant iron military robots. And now we have the third novel in the series, Ganymede, which has yet another impossibly engaging hook to hold together its rambling plot: it's the story of this alt-history's very first submarine, built and lost by the Confederates, rediscovered by a black female brothel owner in New Orleans who secretly works for the Union, salvaged and piloted by a burly zeppelin owner whose usual job is shipping smuggled goods, and with the whole situation complicated by the Texas Republican Army, defiant pirate guerrillas, and shadowy Chinese entrepreneurs.And indeed, as you can see, there's a good reason that a growing number of people are starting to call this perhaps the greatest steampunk series in the history of the genre*; and that's because with each volume, Priest squeezes in several novels' worth of flabbergasting ideas, making each story expansive as hell while still keeping a tight control over the three-act structure. (And please realize, by the way, that it's not just these three novels that make up this series, but also a handful of standalone stories and novellas, plus a comprehensive website.) One of my favorite genre novelists working today, and a fangirl who walks the walk just as well as her readers (her cosplay convention outfits are almost as famous as the books themselves), Ganymede comes with a strong recommendation, and is the exact kind of title for those who only read one steampunk book a year.Out of 10: 9.0, or 10 for steampunk fans*Well, okay, it's hard to beat the steampunk novel that started them all, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's The Difference Engine; but still.
I LOVE this series, and I loved this book!It's got a great plot, very well-drawn characters, and fabulous alternative-history/steampunk flair. I'd read it without the adventure or the steampunk, because i like the characters that much.The relationships are complex- only fair, since several of the main characters are 40-ish; things tend to get more complicated as we get older. And the created world is also getting more nuanced, which I really like.Definitely recommended.
Josephine Early is the madame of a bordello, known in more polite circles as a lady's boarding house, in New Orleans. She also conducts even more covert dealings as an informer and advocate for the United States in the Civil War. Her newest project involves a gigantic underwater craft, stolen from the Confederacy, that could be the deciding factor in the war. If only anyone knew if it worked. Anyone who worked on it or knew anything about it is either dead or in jail. As a result, this project isn't the highest on the US's list since there's no guarantee Ganymede would be worth the effort. In desperation, Josephine asks an old flame, Andan Cly, to pilot it. A (mostly) reformed pirate, Cly decides to help out his old friend while simultaneously completing a legitimate deal in Seattle. As Cly makes his way to New Orleans, another threat presents itself to Josephine: zombis. Can Cly pilot the Ganymede without dying and can they transport the craft to the US before zombis or the Confederacy get to them?Ganymede is the fourth installment in Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century series. An alternative history of the Civil War is built with zombies, fantastical machines, and steampunk elements. I loved Boneshaker and I had to get my hands on Ganymede. It definitely doesn't disappoint. The individual characters are dynamic and interesting to read. Josephine is a bi-racial madame with a heart of gold. She's incredibly strong and fiercely protective of her loved ones, including her ladies and her brother. Able to handle herself in a fight, she even successfully fights off zombies. I liked that she was strong, but didn't lose her femininity or become completely emotionless because of it. Ruthie, one of Josephine's employees, is also a strong character who isn't afraid to use her feminine wiles to overcome obstacles. There is a surprising twist with her near the end of the story. Although the delivery was a little abrupt, the meaning is important and makes the story a little more interesting. Cherie Priest is especially skilled in creating a believable web of characters.Although I really enjoyed Ganymede, I would have loved to see more of the social implications played out between the characters. Many of them are from different backgrounds and wouldn't really get along so well right away. The mixed race brothel led by a bi-racial woman would have turned a few heads or incurred scrutiny or conflict from the Confederacy or southern people in support of slavery. All of the interactions were a little too smooth, including that between Josephine and Andan. You'd think there would have been more tension and conflict between Andan's feelings for Briar, his current love, and Josephine. Each character was dynamic on their own, but more conflict should have been generated between them. Madame Laveau, an aged and powerful voodoo practitioner based on a real person, was also a wasted opportunity that could have had larger implications.Ganymede is a fun adventure story with interesting characters. Although there are faults, the battle scenes were exciting and suspenseful. It's not my favorite book in the series, but it's still a fun steampunk novel.
Clementine, by Cherie Priest, is one of my favorite of the Clockwork Century books. So with that said, bringing the same characters back that kicked butt in Clementine for Ganymede pushed this book up into a frontrunner spot before I even began to read it.It didn¿t have to stay in that spot when I started reading it ¿ but it held it by its own merit, because y¿all, this book kicked butt. Serious butt. Seriously ¿ submarines, zombies, tough girls fighting off zombies ¿ I honestly think this is the best book of the Clockwork Century books yet. So much action, it had me fist-pumping mere pages into the story and the classy touch of romance only helped matters ¿ it was just enough.I admire Cherie Priest so much. She has such a distinctive, unique way of writing. I love the layout of these books, the sepia ink, the fantastic covers, the awesome re-writing of history (making it much more cool). There is so much style in each of her stories, and I think Ganymede really shows that style off. I¿ve been following each release of these books since reading Boneshaker, and anxiously hoarding them on my shelves ¿ loaning them out only when I¿m sure I¿ll get them back in the same condition.Ms. Priest, you have one loyal fan here, and you¿ve above and beyond earned that loyalty. I cannot wait for the next release!
Good to see Cly and crew again, along with new places and tech. Fun quick read.
Ganymede, like all of the Clockwork Century novels before it, was simply delightful. Set in Priest’s alternate history, steampunk, zombie-containing Civil War era America, it is a story about air pirates, brothel employees, family, old friends, adventures, airships, seaships, voodoo, war and zombies. I’m sure I missed a few things somewhere in there, but you get the point that there’s quite a lot going on. However, it doesn’t feel forced or chaotic in any bad way. The result is a fun alternate history/steampunk/adventure romp through New Orleans. I enjoyed seeing all of the old characters again, and liked the new characters too. Ganymede does a great job of bringing together and tying up some of the loose ends from Boneshaker and Dreadnought. I’d recommend it to fans of the previous Clockwork Century novels, Cherie Priest, steampunk, alternate history, or anyone who just wants a fun read.
I finally have to give one of Cherie Priest's books 5 stars. It's not perfection and it's not literature, but it's well written and darn good fun. I was disappointed to have reached the end, not because it was bad, but because I wanted more. This is the best story in the series so far. Since the others all got 4 stars, this gets 1 more. This book, like the others, is full of wonderful characters, most with wonderful, arcane names. What's different is that in this one the relationships between the characters get explored a bit more richly and broadly. This is a result of a somewhat more laid back pace, which wasn't lazy, but does allow for more exploration of characters and the setting. The next book in the series can't come out too soon for me.