Just out from Subterranean Press are two steampunk novellas, James P. Blaylock’s The Ebb Tide and Kage Baker’s The Women of Nell Gwynne’s. Both take place in Victorian England. Both have great illustrations from J.K. Potter. In both stories the protagonists are trying to keep anti-gravity devices from the hands of evildoers. One is pretty good; the other is really good.
James Blaylock’s The Ebb Tide reprises his hero, Langdon St. Ives, adventurer, scientist and member of the Explorers Club, and his narrator, Jack Owlesby, who is really the star of the show. St. Ives first appeared in “The Ape-Box Affair” in 1977, and, thus, Blaylock can be considered one of the founding fathers of the steampunk movement in fantasy and science fiction. Although there have been several other St. Ives stories, The Ebb Tide is the first new adventure in nearly 20 years.
The tale begins as Owlesby, St. Ives and their friend Tubby Frobisher await dinner at their favorite pub, The Half Toad. An acquaintance comes in with a copy of Merton’s Catalogue of Rarities. Listed for the reasonable price of two pounds six is a “hand-dawn map of a small area of the Morecambe Sands, the location not identified.” The mention of a small letter K followed by a figure-eight drawing of a cuttlefish leads the trio to suspect that this may be the long-missing map fashioned by Bill “Cuttle” Kraken which may lead to one of the greatest scientific discoveries of the age.
Dinner is forgotten as the three adventurers begin a quest that will take them to the an underground laboratory containing a Nautilus-like submarine and an amazing diving bell apparently created by the nefarious Dr. Hidalgo Frosticos.
[More about The Ebb Tide and The Women of Nell Gwynne’s after the break...]