Sunday, May 22, 2011

Young Adult: Liberator by Richard Harland

Liberator (Allen & Unwin) is the sequel to the YA steampunk novel Worldshaker, which was set in a world dominated by the huge dreadnoughts, who roam the planet bearing the descendants of the various monarchies of 19th century Europe. The dreadnought Worldshaker was ruled by Queen Victoria III and her husband, Albert, in a perpetual Victorian era, not much changed from the original Victorian era.

At the end of Worldshaker, the oppressed slave class, the Filthies, had rebelled against their rulers, assisted by some of the upper class who supported their right to justice. Col, whose family were high up in the rulership, has fallen for Filthy Riff and the last book implied that there was a future for them, when he stayed on board while other ruling class members left.

Two months later, the Worldshaker, now the Liberator, is ruled by a committee of Flithies. Like many revolutions, this one has started to turn against those who helped it to happen and Col finds himself and his family in an uncomfortable position. Does Riff, now a ruler, still care about him? Does she understand that he is sincere in his support for the rebels? And who is the saboteur who has been destroying the fragile relationship between “Swanks” and Filthies along with the equipment? Does any of it matter with other dreadnoughts on their way to put down the rebellion?

Richard Harland’s tale is non-stop action while carefully making sure the characterization doesn’t suffer. At the same time, there’s still plenty of the sly humour that made Worldshaker such an entertaining read. The last novel was pretty much all set on the ship. In this book, we get to see a lot of the world outside, including the convict colony of New South Wales, and learn more about how this world diverged from our own. The author refers to actual events in our own history and then asks, “What if this had happened just a little differently?”

Liberator is a fine addition to the recent spate of Australian-written steampunk. ◊

Sue Bursztynski lives in Australia, where she works as a teacher-librarian. She has written several books for children and young adults, including Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly and, most recently, the YA novel Wolfborn. Her blog, The Great Raven, can be found at

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