The AGE (Australia, Melbourne, Saturday, 21.5.11)
Allen & Unwin, $19.99
STEAMPUNK has an aura of the esoteric
and opaque, but this fantastically fun
novel is quintessential steampunk at the
same time as being entirely accessible,
with a compulsive plot, strongly drawn
characters and plenty of humour.
Richard Harland has imagined an
alternative history in which Napoleon
beat the English by tunnelling under the
Channel (apparently such a proposal
really was put to him) and in which the
imperial powers now inhabit steam-
powered juggernauts that traverse land
In Worldshaker, to which this novel is
the sequel, the "Filthies" (working class)
overthrew the "Swanks" (upper class)
and changed the name of the
juggernaut from Worldshaker to
Liberator. Now, post-revolution, things
are looking less than utopian as class
hatred intensifies rather than resolves,
and a saboteur further erodes the
precarious trust between the Filthies
and Swanks, even those sympathetic to
the revolution. The Filthies are becoming
increasingly like their former oppressors.
Col, a Swank who was crucial to the
success of the revolution, now finds
himself on the outer, while his true love,
Riff, is on the Revolutionary Council. He
fears she is falling underthe sway of the
beautiful but icy Lye. As the people of
the Liberator find themselves at war with
imperialistforces, political and personal
motives become clearer.
This enjoyable novel is categorised as
young adult. Certainly, adults of the not-
so-young variety may find the political
parallels and lessons a little obvious,
but if they're after a rollicking read, they
should feel free to ignore the young-
May 2011, Vol 26, No 2, Magpies, review (Australia)
Below: cover of the Australian edition
READINGS (newsletter of the Readings bookstore chain,Australia)
Liberator by Richard Harland
Review by Chris Dite, Readings Carlton
Richard Harland’s Worldshaker introduced a world that had been torn apart. In this retelling of history, the Napoleonic wars rendered Europe uninhabitable, and the Imperial houses now traverse the globe in the marauding juggernauts. These steampunk behemoths are strictly divided into two classes: the cruel bourgeois of the Upper Decks and the tortured Filthies below. On Worldshaker (the Britsh Imperial juggernaut), a rebellious Filthy girl met an Upper Decks boy, and the rest, as they say, was history. Revolution!
Just a few months later, Worldshaker is now the Filthy-controlled Liberator. A juggernaut of free and equal people, ruled by a revolutionary council, Liberator looks set to overcome centuries of oppression.
But tensions are high on the free man’s city-vehicle.
A saboteur is weakening the juggernaut, adding to the newly-freed Filthies’ paranoia. The revolutionary council is increasingly persecuting the Upper Decks folk who stayed to help the revolution, who in turn feel their efforts are not appreciated. On top of it all the other Imperial houses have put aside their differences in order to destroy the promise of emancipation. They are coming for the Liberator.
In this heated environment, Col, the aristocrat-turned-revolutionary, is drifting apart from his friend Riff, the Filthy girl who kick-started freedom. Sinister elements on the council seem determined to keep them apart.
Liberator, with its thinly veiled allusions to the Russian Revolution, is an exhilarating exploration of what can go wrong (and right) in the search for equality. Like the narrator, the reader feels giddy at overcoming the horrors of the past, but is nervous about the excesses of the present.
Filled with epic battle scenes, beautiful and bizarre descriptions of a moving iron city, and filled with big personalities, it is sure to appeal to history or fantasy-buffs. Even kids doing history at school might learn a thing or two about the way things could have been!
This review is online at http://www.readings.com.au/review/liberator-by-richard-harland
AurealisXpress May 2011 (Australia)
Liberator by Richard Harland
Allen & Unwin
Review by Crisetta MacLeod.
The King of Steampunk triumphs again! In the sequel to Worldshaker, we enter a world where the revolution is complete. Filthies and the upperclasses, now known as Swanks, live and govern as equals in the renamed Liberator. There is a saboteur at work, though, and in a climate of suspicion it doesn’t take long for the previously oppressed to become the oppressors, complete with uniforms and salutes and false imprisonments. Soon Col is confused and sad about his relationship with Riff, who seems to be disowning him. There is a charismatic new leader with a fanatical gleam in her eye, who wants to liberate the downtrodden in other juggernauts as well, now. There are wonderful battle scenes, where courage and loyalty and family relationships are tested. I think what I love about Harland’s books is that though the stories are clearly aimed at the young adult market, they cross over satisfyingly for adult readers. They can be read at the level of social commentary, casting a knowing eye over political systems, interpersonal loyalties, and what it takes for society to throw up leaders and traitors alike. Will there be more? I do hope so—maybe the offspring of Riff and Col? Maybe the future doings of Col’s little brother, the savant Antrobus?
And here's a French review!
MON QUOTIDIEN LIVRES (6.5.11)
Here's my attempt at translation:---
"A SEQUEL TO DEVOUR!
If you don't know Worldshaker, plunge quickly into this novel! Liberator takes place on board an immense vessel. It's a great adventure, but also a fable against dictatorships (a world in which the leader has total power and respects nobody's freedoms). The story is set three months after that of the first volume. You will meet Col and Riff again. Amongst the new characters, there is an adolescent orphan. She is magnificent, but with a heart filled with the desire for vengeance ... Liberator by Richard Harland"