2 of 5 stars.
Included in Chronology published by Curiosity Quills Press, this is not a short story despite my liberal use of the tag. Nor is it even a vignette, which I’ve used to describe many a very short narrative piece. This is a scene, a short, unsatisfying scene written with clever prose. And, therein lies my conundrum. I mostly enjoyed it, really enjoyed it, until the moment it ended where it never should have ended. Every intriguing mystery in the world-building immediately morphed into a boondoggle. Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote skits offer better closure.
In a steampunk alternative history where the nations of The United States of America, The Republic of Texas, and Mayaztec Republic border the Yucatan Gulf, the Pegasus is the fastest, most advanced dirigible in the world. The clever Doctor Bellerophon, who is neither a doctor nor of Greek ancestry as his name would imply, holds his steam-power technology patents tight and his personal history tighter. The protagonist, Captain Carruthers of the Pittsburgh Carruthers who’s not a captain nor a Carruthers, solicits Bellerophon and his dirigible’s help to hunt down their mutual enemy, Herr Klaus Behringer, who’s gone underground in the Yucatan rainforests.
The set-up is great with two unapologetically secretive, mostly good men teaming together against a common enemy. Also, the descriptions of the Bellerophon Tower and the Pegasus’ rich interiors with its steam-powered automaton crew are grand world-building. Even the technologies are fun, from the super-goggles to a synthetically constructed breathing mechanism the doctor relies on. Less clear is what hard steam is supposed to be and how being exposed to it transforms one’s cells into steam-powered, super-healing cells. Even more startling is the claim that hard steam helps a body defy physics in ways that would even put Wile E. Coyote out of commission. In a dramatic flurry of action, I’m trying to figure out how the hero is still alive. But I’ll roll with it. I just need some more answers into this world and who these people are and–
Maybe the cookies needed to come out of the oven? Maybe this was a timed writing prompt? The story’s not over; it’s barely started. Unfortunately, this half-tale is not a teaser, it’s being peddled as a short story. I don’t see it.
[Check out my other reviews here.]