As “A Serpent in the Gears,” by Margaret Ronald opens, Charles has served as a valet to Colonel Dieterich for twenty years. Now they are sailing on the airship Regina through the Sterling Pass to the secretive land of Aaris. No one aboard is what they seem to be, and Charles is no exception. Even my favorite brain in a jar, Professora Lundqvist, isn’t as transparent as she seems.
As the expedition proceeds, we get a series of fantastic images from beginning to end. A clockwork air serpent that makes Quetzacoatl look like a dragonfly. Warnings graven into mountains. Magic as technology.
There is so much to be revealed, though, it takes nearly half the text to get the setup done. The latter half is an action sequence, with battles alternating with revelations, climaxing with one big revelation. Everyone gasps, takes a breath, and — that’s it. That’s it?
I love the inventiveness. I love the imagery. I really hope this is meant to be the first chapter of an adventure novel. And then maybe a movie, though a movie producer would probably tack on a different ending and blow stuff up.
Installment Three in this year’s Torque Control short story club.