Title: The Sunken
Author: Steff Green
Genre: Steampunk Dark Fantasy
In the heart of London lies the Engine Ward, a district forged in coal and steam, where the great Engineering Sects vie for ultimate control of the country. For many, the Ward is a forbidding, desolate place, but for Nicholas Thorne, the Ward is a refuge. He has returned to London under a cloud of shadow to work for his childhood friend, the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Deep in the Ward’s bowels, Nicholas can finally escape his strange affliction – the thoughts of animals that crowd his head. But seeing Brunel interact with his mechanical creations, Nicholas is increasingly concerned that his friend may be succumbing to the allure of his growing power. That power isn’t easily cast aside, and the people of London need Brunel to protect the streets from the prehistoric monsters that roam the city.
King George III has approved Brunel’s ambitious plan to erect a Wall that would shut out the swamp dragons and protect the city. But in secret, the King cultivates an army of Sunken: men twisted into flesh-eating monsters by a thirst for blood and lead. Only Nicholas and Brunel suspect that something is wrong, that the Wall might play into a more sinister purpose–to keep the people of London trapped inside.
Steff lives in an off-grid house on a slice of rural paradise near Auckland, New Zealand, with her cantankerous drummer husband, their two cats, and their medieval sword collection. The first CD she ever brought was Metallica’s ‘Ride the Lightning’, and she’s been a card-carrying member of the black-t-shirt brigade ever since.
Steff writes about metal music, her books, living off-grid, and her adventures with home-brewing on her blog www.steffmetal.com. She writes humorous fantasy under the name Steff Metal, and dark, dystopian fantasy under S. C. Green. Her latest novel, The Sunken, explores an alternative Georgian London where dinosaurs still survive.
The furnace was unlit; the only light a faint glow from an Argand lamp in Aaron’s hand. He squinted at his friend in the darkness, saw his face set into a stony expression.
“Isambard was just informing me of his secret project,” Aaron said, his tone even.
“You’re building the London railway?” asked Nicholas.
“The King wants you to build a railway in London? Isambard, this is—”
“Amazing. Miraculous, Incomprehensible, I know!” Isambard’s excitement filled the room. “It’s only a small section of track, but it’s a start. He wants me to build a railway from Windsor Castle into Buckingham House. It will be the first railway inside the city. Apart from the first mile of track across the castle grounds, the entire railway will be underground. And it must be built in four months.”
“That’s preposterous!” Aaron said. “You’ve only built one railway before, and that hardly stretched a mile, and it took a lot longer than four months.”
“Especially not when work on the Wall begins next week,” added Nicholas. “That too shares that same impossible deadline, and since it stretches outside the Ward and will be in full view of the public, the Stokers are not permitted to work on it. Where are we going to find men?”
“I am aware of both these issues. That’s why I’ve been holed up in here for the last three days, trying to come up with a solution. Now that you’re both here, I can show you what I’ve created.”
Brunel reached over and, with fingers that seemed unusually cold as they brushed Nicholas’ arm, pushed the light toward the far corner of the room. There stood two machines that made Nicholas recoil in fright.
“What is that?” Aaron demanded.
“You can approach them.” Brunel grabbed Nicholas by the shoulders and dragged him across the room.
“They look so—so—”
“I know. Aren’t they beautiful?” Brunel reached out and stroked the belly of one of the machines, angling the light to give Nicholas and Aaron a better view. “I call them my Boilers. They will revolutionise the manufacturing process.”
Each Boiler stood a little higher than Brunel — round furnace bellies balanced on metal skids, with a complex labyrinth of wheels, tubes and gauges protruding from the top. Their shape appeared too natural, too human, to be made of iron, but iron they were, and ingeniously designed. Clawlike limbs extended from the furnace body, and where one would expect a head, Brunel had given each a double chimney. More dials and gauges protruded from the rear of the furnace, and Nicholas recognised some of the controls from Brunel’s steam locomotive designs — a regulator, a water glass. Obviously prototypes, the metal was rough, unfinished, but Nicholas immediately grasped the basic idea.
“They’re … workers?”
Brunel nodded. “There aren’t men enough in England to finish the railway and Wall as soon as the King wants them, but with machines to work day and night, and men like Aaron to run them, we can do it. These are just prototypes, of course, but fifty units are being finished in the workshops as we speak. I plan to have the first Boiler workgang operational by the end of the week. Watch.”