So, do you…steampunk? Honestly, it’s the best (and only) way to introduce The Great Game because it is its dominant trait. Think Cheryl Priest—except whereas her works take place in Civil War era America, this one transports readers to Victorian Europe, a land where everything runs like clockwork. Or, on clockwork.
No, really. This may be alternate history, but the alternate should be in all caps—the British Empire is ruled by aliens, and not just any aliens, but alien lizards. Everyone who said the lizardman phenomenon was coming for us was apparently right—they just had the time frame off a little bit. Oh, and France? Automatons, the lot of them. Amazing, what a little steam and clockwork can pull off.
Suffice to say, the setting is pretty jarring. We’re not in Kansas anymore and all that; it does take some getting used to. Fortunately, historical and literary characters are there to help guide us through the adjustment period—though not in any real way we would be familiar with them for. Sherlock Holmes? Real and retired. Harry Houdini? Agent on the move. Yes, there’s more than one joke in there somewhere.
Would that any of these characters had the depth to bring extra life to a very colorful world, but unfortunately, no one’s really kept up with for too long. The world and the mysteries themselves are our real characters, and they drive this book forward, through a rather chaotic smattering of events.
Which brings us, in a rather roundabout way, to the plot. Agents of “the Bureau” are on the case of several murders, through shadowy intrigues and some rather colorful expositions. Despite that, erm, rather bland unveiling, though, I will note the plot’s problem is that, while it manages to stay pretty vibrant throughout, it can get a bit…shall we say…chaotic? The fact that the characters are not really at the heart of things certainly doesn’t help.
It is fun. You will be amused. But if you’re looking for more than that, you may be in for some disappointment. With all this attention dedicated to the mystery and the plot, over character, one would think the climax and resolution would be especially key, the answers to all the great exploratory questions—and yet, there is little resolution. It’s a book that can be raced through, leaving little along the way; it will entertain while it’s read, but there’s not much that will cling to the shadows of the mind in its aftermath.
Just don’t let the lizards know I told you.