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Review: Murder on the Titania by Alex Acks

Thursday, June 28, 2018 - 07:13

Murder on the Titania by Alex Acks (Queen of Swords Press, 2018)

This is a delightfully clever series of steampunk adventure/mystery stories featuring Captain Marta Ramos, a somewhat gender-queer bisexual tinkerer, swashbuckler, and outlaw leader. The flavor of the stories made me think oddly of a mash-up of Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, with an overlay of Jules Verne, mostly in the sense of having a central solidly-anchored buddy relationship between the mercurial and brilliant Ramos and her stolid and long-suffering righthand man, Simms. Together they work their way through locked rooms, red herrings, and mysterious objects. The “delectable and devious Delilah Nimowitz” provides a romantic interest for Ramos in several of the stories in an enemies-to-flirtatious-rivals fashion. There isn’t anything resembling a romance arc, but there’s more than sufficient in-story evidence to make queer readers feel represented.

One of the things I loved about this series is how it played with genre tropes and rooted the steampunk elements solidly in an American setting--though one with unexpected twists. For example: you immediately see a reference to the Duke of Denver, that staple title of Regencies, and then are knocked off balance by realizing he’s the Duke of Denver, Colorado and suddenly all your expectations of the implied world-building shift sideways. The stories don’t waste time explaining these shifts but any reader familiar with genre fiction should be charmed by working out the setting on the fly. Another amusing feature (though one that required me to chuck my sense of disbelief off a cliff) was the use of railroads and trains in ways that felt more reminiscent of seagoing adventures than transport constrained by terrestrial linearity.

A great collection; highly recommended.

This is the last day to get Murder on the Titania and a bunch of other great queer SFF books from Storybundle!

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