Apex Books has been kind enough to let me have a digital ARC of Pimp My Airship by Maurice Broaddus. I hadn’t previously had the opportunity to read his work, but steampunk is one of the genres I tend to watch for as I like the feel of them. After reading this book, you can bet I will be looking for more of this author’s writing whenever I get the chance, because I really loved this book.
If you want a plot summary of the book, go read the nice little blurb on Apex’s site. They do that better than I ever could.
Now, what makes me love this book so much? Everything about it. It has an amazing world, compelling characters, and a great story. I felt more connection to Sophine than to Sleepy at first, but once I got more into the book and got to understand Sleepy better, he grew on me. I loved his attitude about his weight and his words. He isn’t someone who rushes into things, but does what he has to do.
The world is a bit different than the steampunk I’ve read before. It’s an alternate history that goes further back in time before deviating from the actual time and it’s set in what is central US in our world. Figuring out how the world was the same and how it was different was a fun layer of the piece, as it is never spelled out blatantly (a good thing, since doing so would have been a dreadful narrator background dump).
Now where this book really excels for me is the layers beneath the surface story. In the upper layer, we have interesting characters in a fictional world: Sleepy is thrust into an unexpected adventure by accident and Sophine is trying to deal with a tense family situation and make her own way in the world.
Although the world is fictional and it’s an alternate history, so much is still similar to our own. And this is what makes my heart and my brain break. I grew up white middle class. I wish race didn’t matter. But this book helps me understand how much even today my attitude is a privilege that so many people of color don’t have. I feel like I have more insight into how people can end up protesting in more extreme fashions no matter how peacefully they wish they could do so. And this reality is, to me, far more heartbreaking than the individual stories of Sophine and Sleepy and Knowledge Allah.
I wish I had links I could offer to reviews by people of color, because I am sure they have a far different perspective on this book than I do. I hope to add some to the review comments on my blog later. I am certain that part of my slowness bonding with Sleepy is cultural, but that issue is in me and my limited experiences, not a flaw in the story.
I’m not the type to hand out 5 star reviews like your favorite neighbor gives out Halloween candy. I’m more like the stingy old lady on the next block who turns the lights off and pretends not to be home. But this book–this book makes me want to hand out my best 80% dark European chocolate.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants a great Steampunk-esque story and to anyone who wants to stretch their brain a bit. This story is such a great example of how quality speculative fiction can help people understand each other a little better. So regardless of your race or background, if you enjoy this kind of story–and especially if you like to have your world expanded–try this book.
Thank you, Apex, for allowing me to review it, and thank you Maurice Broaddus for having written such a compelling book.