The Forever Engine (Frank Chadwick, 2014, ISBN 1451639406)
Lately, Space 1889 has caught my imagination. I’d been looking at the original Victorian-era steampunk setting for Spelljammer inspiration, but found myself drawn to the 1889 setting instead.
Space 1889 is a fantasy alternate universe where the Mars and Venus of Burroughs are reality, and British redcoats patrol the skies on steam-powered aerial flyers.
Looking for further material, I found the novel “The Forever Engine”, written by Frank Chadwick, the author of Space 1889, and the current rights holder to the game, if I’m not mistaken. Though not explicitly written for Space 1889, the world is instantly recognizable.
I was a bit leery going in. A reviewer complained about the know-it-all, smart alec main character being an irritant. And RPG authors writing fiction in their own game setting is a hit-or-miss affair.
With that in mind, I pushed ahead. The beginning wasn’t promising. The main character is a modern-day, our-Earth, Afghanistan combat vet. Who left service and became a professor. So, yeah, he is a know-it-all.
Through a confusing turn of events at a particle accelerator lab(?), Jack Fargo is transported to the alternate world of Tesla and Edison. It serves the purpose of establishing a relatable main character to discover this strange world along with us.
With the early stumbles done, the book found its pace. The background was rich of course, and unfolded on a trip across steampunk Europe. I was happy to find that Chadwick writes interesting, plausible characters who are driven by their personalities instead of the requirements of the plot. Gordon, the green British officer. Gabrielle, the French communist spy. The antagonist, who I won’t name, was full of nuance.
And even Fargo, the know-it-all, grew on me. He committed just enough blunders to offset his perfection.