In an alternate steampunk version of Victorian England, Whitechapel is cut off from the rest of the country and ruled by two machines, Mama Engine and Grandfather Clock. Their control is enforced in part by cyborg-like Boiler Men, and army comprised of men that were once human but are now mostly machine. In the past, humans tried to fight back, but their uprising was squelched and many have fallen victim to the "clacks", a virus that slowly turns the infected into a machine. Most residents of Whitechapel keep their heads down and try to get on with life as best they can. But a few will try to bring down the mechanical empire. Oliver and his crew are working to free Whitechapel and it seems they may have found a secret weapon.
The strongest attribute of Whitechapel Gods is its atmosphere. The language Peters uses lends a smoky, gritty feel to the book. Some of the characters are quite memorable, as is the creepy John Scared and his minion. Others are completely interchangeable, like many of the crew Oliver runs with. And at times the plot is extremely difficult to follow, especially in the beginning. The amount of extraneous action overwhelms the true aim of the story. While the steampunk aspects are well defined, the metaphysical aspects of Mama Engine and Grandfather Clock are not. This supernatural facet is vital to the story, yet never fully explained and seems little more than a convenient and confusing plot device.
Whitechapel Gods by S M Peters suffers from its nebulous plot. While the idea of a Victorian England suffering from a mechanical plague had potential, the execution of the story fell short. As my first read in the steampunk sub-genre I was disappointed. Despite the good points (and wonderful cover art), I would not readily recommend this book.
Whitechapel Gods by S M Peters
Published by Roc
Whitechapel Gods by S M Peters is available at Amazon.com
I reviewed Whitechapel Gods from my own personal library