Romulus Buckle & The City Of The Founders
Written by: Richard Ellis Preston Jr.
Published by: 47North (July 2, 2013)
The late Richard Matheson will always be remembered for the ideas he brought about in his stories (ok, he will most likely be remembered for The Twilight Zone). He was a good writer but not a great one. With his constant supply of original ideas he didn’t need to be great. On the other hand, if you are going to take an unoriginal idea, you best have some writing chops to keep us interested. Richard Ellis Preston Jr. is no Richard Matheson.
Our hero, Romulus Buckle, lives in a post-apocalyptic world where it is always snowing and technology has been reduced to a steam powered level. Buckle lives on his ship, the Pneumatic Zeppelin (it’s easy to remember because they say the phrase Pneumatic Zeppelin on almost every page). He is out to save his adopted father and clan leader, Balthazar. But you would think he is more concerned with his wardrobe as he seems to always be changing and thinking about what he is wearing. By the constant asides on clothing one would think that half of the ship is nothing more than storage for Buckle’s various outfits.
Buckle does what any captain would do, anything but fly the ship. He is being thrown into various silly predicaments by micromanaging every little detail and by hiring his friends and family that seem to have all of these personal problems that come to mind when they should be focusing on the ensuing battle. A bulk of the book takes place in one day including (there may be some spoilers here): Buckle falling from the zeppelin while fighting off alien sky beasts, making a pact with a warring clan, making a daring raid on the city of the founders (and though they are supposed to be a terrifying force, Buckle and company don’t have much problem saving their friends from the founders), and then there is about 100 pages of the zeppelin crashing.
Even if you are a diehard steampunk fan you may have a little trouble swallowing this one. The novel rambles on for 446 pages but there are only about 100-150 pages of story here. Aside from the minefield of bad similes and either poor or over description, there are tons of characters but nary a character development to be seen. Buckle is great at every possible task and situation. It is a wonder that the bad guys don’t just give up when they encounter him. There are plenty of red-shirts that bite it along the way, not to mention oodles of henchmen that might as well have been androids.
Romulus Buckle & the City Of The Founders is the first in a series but I couldn’t image sitting through more books of bombastic speeches, wardrobe cataloging, and not really having any concern for any of the main characters as long as they have an army of red-shirts to throw at any incompetent bad guys that come their way. Perhaps Preston can take a new path with the next book and limit the viewpoint characters to only a few instead of over a dozen. Also he could explore the “Martian” artifacts and how they changed the world. Best to avoid this one unless you really want a steampunk story and there isn’t another option available. Cool cover art though.
Reviewed by Adam Armstrong