Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War (released November 19) is the second book in Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.’s steampunk adventure series, The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin.
“The greatest tragedy of life is not that men perish, but that they cease to love.” (W. Somerset Maugham)
I have written a series which centers on young adults. The main ages range between eighteen and twenty-two. They live in a world of high adventure and, of course, raging hormones. And though this is a series which is designed to fit into the Young Adult category (and hence, nobody can ‘do it’) there is plenty of room for the great love affair.
Let me set the stage for a moment. For those of you unfamiliar with my series, it is a steampunk adventure following the journey of a zeppelin crew in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian world. My captain is the swashbuckling Romulus Buckle. The first officer is the red-headed navigator, Lieutenant Sabrina Serafim. The second officer is Lieutenant Max (her real name is unpronounceable to humans), a beautiful half-alien female with zebra-striped skin. These three stalwart young people are in charge of a massive zeppelin designed to be a ship of war. Romulus, Sabrina and Max are orphans, all adopted by the clan leader, Balthazar, which makes them family by name but not by blood.
Captain Buckle is what I call an ‘unintentional rake.’ He is dashing, tall and handsome and women are attracted to him but he has no desire to settle down. His character is based on Errol Flynn and Indiana Jones so you get the picture. He is oblivious to the fact that both Max and Sabrina have begun to fall in love with him and oblivious to his own feelings towards both of these women who are his adopted sisters.
Ah, the seeds of the tired old love triangle, you say. True. But this is not a typical love triangle. In this series I have tried to set up conventional situations so I can spin them and turn them on their heads (to varying degrees) later on. There are hints of coming love affairs in the first two books of the series and there shall be great love affairs. They just might not arise between the people you first expect.
As for the growing yearnings of Romulus, Max and Sabrina, there are a slew of obstacles between them and the great romance. They are brother and sister by adoption. This world is like ancient Rome in its use of adoptions, which are used for many different purposes; a sexual relationship, even marriage between an adopted brother and sister is not viewed as taboo in the Snow World. But although they are not of the same blood I still think the nature of the family relationship gives my characters pause. The far bigger obstacle is the fact that they are members of the same crew. The Snow World is a place where men and women function on an equal footing. The aviator girls are just as daring and tough as the boys and they are expected to be that way. But there exists an unwritten code that the aviators on the airships not dally with other members of the crew and this applies especially to the officers.
Romulus, Sabrina and Max are also driven by one or more motivation which verges on obsession. War is coming and each of them is deeply entangled in personal and emotional quests which override any real commitment to a romantic interlude. There will be time for love after the war (both external and internal) is the way these people look at the world. But my characters are young and Mother Nature is insistent and tricky. And war has a way of making human beings cast aside reservations when there is a real prospect of having no tomorrow. The love affairs shall happen no matter the best intentions of the youthful hearts involved.
But this love triangle shall be a tangled web. In the new book, Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War, an Imperial clan Princess named Valkyrie joins the crew of the Pneumatic Zeppelin. Valkyrie is tall, blonde and gorgeous. She is also an officer with a no-nonsense attitude (think of Charlize Theron in Prometheus) and a natural leader of soldiers. You can smell what’s coming. Romulus Buckle shall be smitten and a wild love affair is about to ensue. The triangle becomes a square. But what of Max and Sabrina, fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with their crewmates? Shall they simply bury their feelings and be the good lieutenants?
I’m not going to tell you how all of this works out but I will say this: human beings make mistakes, war makes for strange bedfellows and the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
As the Snow World teeters on the brink of war, Captain Romulus Buckle is desperate to solve the mysteries which haunt him, mysteries which hold the key to his survival and the survival of the Crankshaft clan. Buckle journeys into the treacherous Tehachapi Mountains to discover the true identity of a crashed enemy zeppelin, a wreck brimming with skeletons and secrets. Trapped by a bloodfreezer storm, Buckle is surrounded by hordes of alien sabertooth tigers. And when his beautiful half-Martian lieutenant, Max, comes to his rescue and is horribly injured, both end up fighting for their lives. But this is just the beginning of the battles against the elements and the alien beasties.
Arriving at the Crankshaft stronghold at the Devil’s Punchbowl, Buckle joins his father, Balthazar, in a meeting of wary clan ambassadors. Whispering spies have revealed that the powerful but resource-strapped Founders clan is readying for a war of conquest and enslavement and every other clan in the known world is at terrible risk. With assassins and saboteurs lurking in the shadows, Buckle and his crew are forced to team up with former enemies. In a race against time, the crew of the Pneumatic Zeppelin must secure the grand alliance before the Founders invaders can mobilize.
More secrets rise to the surface, carried by moonchildren and half-melted robots. And for Romulus Buckle, the search for his lost sister Elizabeth is verging on obsession.
“The kraken descended, its huge wings beating, a flesh-and-blood nightmare shedding the unreality of myth, an alien beastie so ravenous that no aviator unfortunate enough to face one had ever come home alive. The fables described the kraken as a hunter of human sweetmeats, devouring entire crews in mere minutes, a pitiless crusher of airships.
For an instant, all Buckle could do was stare. The kraken resembled a giant squid, reddish yellow in color, though the head was almost blue, nestled amidst countless muscle-bound tentacles, the tubular body long and sheathed in an armored carapace, crowned with a horn-lined frill—a triceratopian head. The four sweeping wings, bat-like with their translucent, veined flesh and protuberance of the skeletal structure beneath, beat slowly but powerfully, each one casting massive vortexes in the snowstorm, each one as big as the Arabella itself. Blue-white arcs of electricity crackled back and forth across the kraken’s skin.
And the eyes—the beasties always had such terrible, glowing eyes. The kraken had seven of them—one huge, multi-chambered orb in the center of the head and three smaller eyes aligned on each side. They were hypnotic, drenched with malevolence, and frightful in their intelligence.
It had to be killed and killed quickly. And all Romulus Buckle had in his hand as he hurled aside his safety line—a deadly hindrance now—and scrambled amidships with a heart firing like artillery … well, all he had was a blunt axe.
It would have to do.”
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Check out Book 1 in The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin
Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders
In a post-apocalyptic world of endless snow, Captain Romulus Buckle and the stalwart crew of the Pneumatic Zeppelin must embark on a perilous mission to rescue their kidnapped leader, Balthazar Crankshaft, from the impenetrable City of the Founders. Steaming over a territory once known as Southern California – before it was devastated in the alien war – Buckle navigates his massive airship through skies infested with enemy war zeppelins and ravenous alien beasties in this swashbuckling and high-octane steampunk adventure. Life is desperate in the Snow World – and death is quick – Buckle and his ship’s company must brave poisoned wastelands of noxious mustard and do battle with forgewalkers, steampipers and armored locomotives as they plunge from the skies into the underground prison warrens of the fortress-city.
Captain Romulus Buckle must lead the Pneumatic Zeppelin and its crew of never-do-wells on a desperate mission where he must risk everything to save Balthazar and attempt to prevent a catastrophic war which could wipe out all that is left of civilization and the entire human race.
Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. is a science fiction writer who loves the zeitgeist of steampunk. Although he grew up in both the United States and Canada he prefers to think of himself as British. He attended the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, where he earned an Honors B.A. in English with a Minor in Anthropology. He has lived on Prince Edward Island, excavated a 400 year old Huron Indian skeleton and attended a sperm whale autopsy. Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War is the second installment in his new steampunk series, The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin. Richard has also written for film and television. He currently resides in California.
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