February 25, 2020

Review: The Forever Engine by Frank Chadwick

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Saddle up and batten down those airship hatches… steampunk and alternate science fiction timelines lay ahead in this week’s review.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll briefly paraphrase ourselves once again. Steampunk is a genre that’s crying out for a flagship franchise. And it’s ironic that, with the legions of Con fans dressing techno-retro, there’s still not a Star Trek or Star Wars caliber series to quench the fans seeming thirst for all things steampunk. There’s a wad o’ cash waiting to be made for the first series to stake a claim on the psyche of steampunk-dom, not to mention near certain science fiction deification, I’m just sayin…

Which brings us to this weeks’ Friday review, The Forever Engine by Frank Chadwick. Out now from Baen Books, The Forever Engine follows the dimension spaaning exploits of special operator, historian and time traveler Jack Fargo into a world that never was.

Or is it an alternate reality? These are the questions that Fargo must come to terms and more within this steam-dominated world as he begins to thread the techno-political intrigue of this alternate era.  In his search for answers, Fargo is aided in his quest by an elder Scottish physicist and a beautiful but mysterious French spy. At stake: the fate of the world and perhaps the universe, as a doomsday device known as the Forever Engine threatens to shatter the world and, just perhaps, reality as we – and other alternate timelines – know it.

Fans of this space and Chadwick’s work may remember our recent review of his science fiction deep space mob based thriller, How Dark the World Becomes.  Chadwick is also well known as the creator of the retro-steampunk roll playing game Space: 1889.

The quest takes our intrepid explorers on a quest across war torn Europe looking for answers. Some famous names in our own reality make an appearance, such as a steampunk Nikola Tesla, Lord Kelvin and John Tyndall. Tesla himself is a fascinating figure for historical Sci-Fi, as so many of his ideas were far ahead of his time.

We liked the pacing, characters, and world-building of How Dark the World Becomes a slight bit better than The Forever Engine, but it’s worth a read. My first big question as a reader when thrust into an alternate timeline is: just how did the world that’s being presented end up the way it is? Did Babbage’s Difference Engine get built? Did folks decide (as appears to be the case in The Forever Engine) to listen to Telsa and his ideas about alternating current and wireless power transmission? Chadwick does do a great job in not only depicting these alternate technologies, but portraying just how they impact the motivations of his characters.

We also thought that it was great that the Carrington Superflare of 1859 was referred to in the novel, although the author played a bit fast and loose with the dates.

Overall, The Forever Engine was a decent work adding to the lore and legends of Steampunk-dom… who knows, it might just be the subgeneres’ big breakthrough novel!

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