Here is the summary of the book:
Nineteenth century London is the center of a vast British Empire. Airships ply the skies and Queen Victoria presides over three-quarters of the known world—including the East Coast of America, following the failed revolution of 1775.
London might as well be a world away from Sandsend, a tiny village on the Yorkshire coast. Gideon Smith dreams of the adventure promised him by the lurid tales of Captain Lucian Trigger, the Hero of the Empire, told in Gideon’s favorite “penny dreadful.” When Gideon’s father is lost at sea in highly mysterious circumstances Gideon is convinced that supernatural forces are at work. Deciding only Captain Lucian Trigger himself can aid him, Gideon sets off for London. On the way he rescues the mysterious mechanical girl Maria from a tumbledown house of shadows and iniquities. Together they make for London, where Gideon finally meets Captain Trigger.
But Trigger is little more than an aging fraud, providing cover for the covert activities of his lover, Dr. John Reed, a privateer and sometime agent of the British Crown. Looking for heroes but finding only frauds and crooks, it falls to Gideon to step up to the plate and attempt to save the day...but can a humble fisherman really become the true Hero of the Empire?
David Barnett's Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl is a fantastical steampunk fable set against an alternate historical backdrop: the ultimate Victoriana/steampunk mash-up!
This book is one tough cookie to breakdown. I'm literally not sure where to begin. There are enough converging story lines in this one book that with a premeditated course of action, the author could have spawned it into serialized novels.But that does not happen at all. And we get this complicated book.... I actually wanted to stop reading halfway at the beginning because things weren't making any sense at all but I persisted ..... and yes got to the end and things finally became very much clearer.
Steampunk had always been the genre of sci-fi, that takes the most liberties with history. Dirigibles, automatons, disrupters, sky pirates, air ships and the like minded clockwork inventions. There is enough of these in here to maintain the genre. But if you think that is just it, then you are mistaken. Couple it with some famous historical figures of different literary arenas, the mystical Egypt and its secrets, and vampires..... and you get this weird cocktail of a book.
Set in the era where the British Crown under Queen Victoria occupies three quarters of the known world following the failed rebellion of 1755. Strange occurrences have been happening in Sandsend, trawler men lost at sea but the boats unscathed and the big black hound appearing from a foreign boat. When Gideon Smith looses his father at sea amidst strange circumstances he feels only the 'Hero of the Empire', the hero of his favorite 'penny dreadful's' Captain Lucian Trigger may be his only chance at seeking justice. Throughout the course of the book, he meets, befriends and even changes a lot of people. But is Trigger what he proclaims in the tales or something else?
Now lets talk of the characters quota of this book. The book is titled 'Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl'. As can be seen, Gideon Smith, and Maria 'the Mechanical Girl' are the main characters. But that is not all there is.... We get Bram Stoker, Hermann Einstein, Inspector Lestrade, Dracula, Countess Bathory, Jack the Ripper even and so many others.... A little crowded.
Also I didn't exactly like Gideon's character. Nearly 24, he is much too naive of the real world and sometimes acts like a kid. We are all allowed to keep our fantasies no matter the age but his felt downright hero-worship. Can be attributed to the fact that he had never seen anything outside of his little village but it is evident enough that he is a dreamer. He goes in search of heroes but finds frauds..... At least he gets his head back in the game instead of wallowing in misfortune to battle the real demons.
Finally, got to hand it to David Barnett. He may have put in many different plot lines (which were rather a pain to follow) but he is actually able to converge it all into a final explosive set piece. I did like the action here and my personal favorite were the Steampunk devices in play. Also good job for not using Count Dracula, but Countess Dracula (Bathory).... made for a nice reading change there.
"Complexingly extravagant and entertaining"