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Steam Mole

Posted by Lee A. Farruga on January 20, 2013 at 9:15 AM


Steam Mole is part two of the adventures of Tim Barnabas and Clara Calland written by author Dave Freer. It is the continuation of the story that began in the first novel Cuttlefish, which was reviewed here last summer. You can find out more about Dave Freer and how Tim and Clara's story began HERE


Steam Mole begins a few weeks after the end of Cuttlefish. The crew is stranded in Westralia while their submarine is being put back together after being badly damaged by the end of the first book. They all disperse and take jobs on various underground rail lines to make do until they can leave again. Dr. Calland is mysteriously ill and Clara is sent off to live with a well respected family until her mother recovers...or not. 


Tim has the worst time. He is miserable without Clara and finds himself treated badly by his new co-workers. Everything really starts to go to hell in a handbasket when Tim is thrown off the steam mole simply for the colour of his skin. He is left in the desert to die. 


While Tim is fighting to survive, Clara finds out that her father has been moved to a prison on the eastern end of Australia by the evil British Empire to try and lure her into their hands.  When she finds out that Tim is missing, that is the last straw.  She decides to take matters into her own hands and escapes the confines of polite society to search for them both. 


This second book involves many more of the characters from the first book that were either quickly mentioned or had little to do with the first storyline, which was focussed very much around Tim and Clara.  This time we really get to know Clara's mother and father and the captain and crew of the Cuttlefish. We also get to meet some wonderful new characters including Clara's new friend Linda, and my favourite, Lampy Green.


Steam Mole is a steampunk adventure story, with many journeys through the treacherous desert by foot, horse, underground rail, and steam mole. However, the story is more than that. Dave Freer has taken the opportunity to impress on the reader the lack of respect and dangerous plight of the aboriginal peoples of Australia. He gives voice to this through Tim who is abused simply for being the same colour as the local people, and Lampy who has lived and suffered the injustice personally. He also gives the reader a sense of hope toward the end without trying to imply that everything is better now.


I found Steam Mole a more well rounded story than Cuttlefish, however, in this story as in the first, and as I mentioned in my review of Cuttlefish, the villian Duke Malcolm is only involved from a distance and has very little opportunity to be truly evil. If there is to be a third part to this story, please give the Duke more face time and let him get his hands dirty.


While there is most definitely more substance to this second book, in the end it is once again very much a story about family.


You cand find out more about Steam Mole at Pyr Science Fiction and Fantasy.



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