Friday, January 11, 2013

Review: Cuttlefish by Dave Freer


by Dave Freer
The smallest thing can change the path of history.

The year is 1976, and the British Empire still spans the globe. Coal drives the world, and the smog of it hangs thick over the canals of London.

Clara Calland is on the run. Hunted, along with her scientist mother, by Menshevik spies and Imperial soldiers, they flee Ireland for London. They must escape airships, treachery and capture. Under flooded London’s canals they join the rebels who live in the dank tunnels there.

Tim Barnabas is one of the underpeople, born to the secret town of drowned London, place of anti-imperialist republicans and Irish rebels, part of the Liberty - the people who would see a return to older values and free elections. Seeing no further than his next meal, Tim has hired on as a submariner on the Cuttlefish, a coal fired submarine that runs smuggled cargoes beneath the steamship patrols, to the fortress America and beyond.

When the Imperial soldiery comes ravening, Clara and her mother are forced to flee aboard the Cuttlefish. Hunted like beasts, the submarine and her crew must undertake a desperate voyage across the world, from the Faeroes to the Caribbean and finally across the Pacific to find safety. But only Clara and Tim Barnabas can steer them past treachery and disaster, to freedom in Westralia. Carried with them—a lost scientific secret that threatens the very heart of Imperial power.
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*

Publication Date: July 2012
Publisher: Pyr
Pages/Format: 299; Hardcover, ebook

Checkout Cuttlefish's sequel: THE STEAM MOLE!



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