“America: Dr. Wiley’s Construct – Episode 1” by Jackson Wilder

This is a short book comprising 69 pages, a single episode in a longer serial, an old-style Steampunk story with echoes of modern social and political problems, deftly merged.

While the publicity calls this book a novella, it really isn’t. It is the first episode of a series, and as such has a different structure from a novella. This episode is mostly a beginning, but it ends in the middle of the action, with none of the conflicts resolved at the end.

The element most lacking at this stage of the series is a lot of action or suspense. Think of the first third of a regular novel. Elements added near the end give us hope that the later episodes will contain more excitement as the conflict heats up.

As we expect in the first episode of a series, the author spends a lot of time setting up the society, the characters, and the conflicts. This nuts-and-bolts activity maintains our interest because it is…well…interesting. Steampunk fans will find the worldbuilding is especially detailed, and it meshes neatly with the social and political conflict. Likewise, the protagonists — and there are several — are distinctive, empathetic and true to life. This is important, because our appreciation of their personalities and our involvement in their struggles is what will bring us back to read subsequent episodes. The antagonists are varied, ranging from unabashedly evil up through selfishly ambitions towards merely misguided. It speaks to their veracity that at the end of the “bad guys plotting” scene I was starting to get mad at the world and the way it shouldn’t work.

This is not a jolly, lighthearted romp. It deals with serious issues that affect today’s world. If rich industrialists demonstrate disregard for the workers and the environment, it doesn’t bode well for their assumption that they are the best ones to make moral decisions on behalf of the population. Setting these themes in an earlier age is perhaps the most touching argument of all; it makes us question how much progress has really been made in the last 150 years.

The second book in the series is in production at the moment. I hope it takes the strong base this series is built on and creates exciting conflicts to take our interest and enjoyment further.

This review was originally published at Readsy Discovery.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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