Alex Acks’ 2019 Wireless and More Steam-Powered Adventures is the second collection of steampunk stories featuring protagonist Captain Marta Ramos.
Blood in Elk Creek
Her airplane is shot down by a rogue unit of the Grand Duke of Denver’s soldiers. Ramos survives the resulting crash, but she is injured and marooned in the middle of the zombie-infested Dead Plains. Ramos then discovers a mad scheme to secure a lost goldmine by triggering a new zombie pandemic in the Black Hills. Facing a foe armed with super-science and backed by Denver’s Black Bull regiment. Ramos must do the unthinkable: ally with arch-enemy Colonel Geoffrey Douglas.
Do Shut Up, Mister Simms
While Ramos is busy saving the Black Hills from zombies, her steadfast minion Meriwether Octavian Simms must rescue a hapless colleague from Denver’s prison with the help of Ramos’ girlfriend, Deliah Nimowitz. The price of Deliah’s assistance? Simms’ unwilling participation in one of Deliah’s zany heists.
Nieman DeLuc secured his position as the self-styled Rail King in large part due to his command of cutting-edge technology. Rail lines through the zombie-infested hinterlands attract urban customers who are willing to pay well for safe travel. But some of DeLuc’s success is due to his ruthlessness. Arrogance proves his downfall when he off-handedly antagonizes Ramos and her crew.
Ramos at one point feels that the least bad option available is to murder someone in cold blood. Not the first protagonist in an adventure story to do that. What is unusual is that she feels remorse afterwards, even though the dead man clearly deserved his fate. I liked her better for that.
A question re the setting: due to the armies of flesh-eating zombies roaming the lands, most of the white settlers1) now live in fortified cities. Who’s doing the farming?
This is a compact work. The stories move along at a nice clip, if not so quickly that characterization and setting are skimped. The stories are also closely linked; this collection is nearly a novel. It was an enjoyable fast read.
- If the story Blood in Elk Creek is any guide, Native Americans are a lot better than white settlers at coping with the undead. In fact, from the native perspective, roving mobs of ravening undead are an improvement over living settlers.