Wednesday 3 August 2011

Review: Rewired by Alex Keller

Mandrake von Guggenstein has escaped!

Snatched on the day of his execution by a nightmare creature called Grilsgarter, the Terror of Beacon is loose again. The clock is ticking. Can brothers Ludwig and Hephaestus find him before their world is plunged into darkness again?

I really loved Alex Keller's Haywired when I read it last August, my only criticism of that twisted steampunk fairy tale being that it was just too damn short! Unfortunately the sequel, Re:wired, is just as short as its predecessor, but yet again that is the only negative thing I can say about this story. I loved it from beginning to end, and it was yet another read-in-a-single-sitting book from this author. 

I really enjoy steampunk stories, although I know some people now believe it to be past its peak as far as originality is concerned, but this is a comment that certainly cannot be levied at Alex Keller. Re:wired picks up where the previous book left off in that it is laced with a gloriously dark humour, its characters are fantastically imagined and the story is yet another riproaring old-school adventure story full of hideous, evil villains and brave and daring (thought slightly flawed) heroes. I think if steampunk had been around back at the time when the Ealing Studios were at their peak then this is the kind of story they would have had a great deal of fun with, starring the likes of Alec Guinness and Alistair Sim.

The story kicks off several months after the events of Haywired, with Mandrake von Guggenstein about to be executed for the crimes he committed against the people of Pallenway. Fortunately for Mandrake he is 'rescued' literally from the gallows by a machine/creature that could only have been born in the deepest, darkest corner of the author's imagination, the only clue to its origin being the departing cry of Mandrake: "Grilsgarter?" So begins a desperate search by the heroes of Haywired, desperate to find and recapture the evil despot, although this time young Ludwig is to be left behind as his grandmother deems it too dangerous for him this time. Yes, you guessed it, there is no way that Ludwig is going to go along with this, and so he manages to smuggle himself on board the good shop Kamaria, where he spends the voyage keeping his head down as a deck hand, and thus ends up risking life and limb again.

As with Haywired, this sequel is again very much about the characters and the story. We do find out a little more about the world in which they live, but this element of the book is most definitely not the driving force of the story. With only 170 pages to play with, lengthy descriptive passages about the world would obviously mean less story, and so Alex Keller rightly focuses his attentions on his characters. We are introduced to several new faces, but more importantly for me personally, we get to find out a lot more about The Captain, one of my favourite characters from Haywired. Unfortunately, to say any more would sadly create spoilers for those of you who have not yet read the first book in the series.

The ending of Haywired seemed somewhat rushed, and I am happy to say that this book is brought to a conclusion in a far more satisfying manner, although yet again another 30 or so pages would have allowed the author to lengthen some of the more important scenes in the story. In addition, although the story does not technically end on a cliffhanger, we are left with a small handful of questions that need answering, and this reader definitely wants more.

My thanks go to the generous people at Mogzilla for sending me a copy of Re:wired to review.

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