Whitechapel Gods by S.M. Peters. It is very steampunk. But it’s not a comedic steampunk like I’m used to reading. I’d say it’s more like a 40s pulp or film noir type steampunk. So, some spoilers below I’m sure.
The area of Whitechapel (where Jack the Ripper wen on his infamous rampage) in London has been cut off from the rest of Britain by a wall and two mechanical gods, Grandfather Clock and Mama Engine. I don’t think Peters ever said for sure how these creatures came to Whitechapel or what exactly their purpose was. Other than making the residents of Whitechapel miserable that is.
The book focuses on the rebellion against Grandfather Clock and Mama Engine. The humans that aren’t cowed and whipped into submission (for whatever reason), are trying to destroy the two so-called gods. There are severe health problems among the residents of Whitechapel that includes lung disease (from breathing the severely sooty air) and a condition called the Clacks, where humans are invaded by mechanics because of the two Gods. Humans are also, apparently, the fuel for Mama Engine. Yum.
At any rate, the book follows various groups of rebels and collaborators as they attempt to either bring down one or both of the gods. Peters tends to jump around from group to group but he does fairly well in keeping it from getting confusing, which I appreciate. Not every writer can do that.
Over all, I rather enjoyed the book. I think the grittiness and seriousness of the story was very much in tune with how the lives of Victorian industrial workers would be. Some steampunk books ignore the fact that Victorian England was a gritty, sooty place where fog turned yellow from coal dust and where there was a severely huge gap between the haves and the have nots. Peters didn’t do this.
However, I would have liked to know where these two so-called gods came from, what it was they were working toward and what the British government’s response was to suddenly losing a portion of it’s city. So Whitechapel Gods is certainly worth the read but don’t go expecting those sorts of answers. B-