I have read and reviews all six over the past two years and it has been an absolute pleasure to delve into the historical, fantastical world of a Victorian age with modern technology, space travel and otherworldly monsters.
The Sedgewick adventures serve as an excellent crash course into the steampunk genre. Each story is bite-sized and easy to digest during a commute. They are also highly readable, in that they are entertaining page-turners with humour, action and mystery packed into their economic word counts.
Professor Sedgewick and his trusty batman Cadwallander are the steampunk equivalent of Sherlock and Watson: the former is brilliant but peculiar, whilst the latter is the loyal grounded everyman.
Four of the stories are told from Cadwallander's very British and gentlemanly perspective, which makes for a very amusing narrative. The other two tales are narrated by free-spirited adventurer Mina Saxena and dutiful Inspector Wilmarth. If Sedgewick is Sherlock then these two are Irene Adler and Inspector Lestrade.
The variety offered by this collection is dazzling, with Grant assembling a greatest hits of key steampunk tropes: aliens on a spaceship, discovering a cult on Mars, relic-hunting in Tibet, a locked room mystery, subterranean monsters and an Armageddon-inducing finale. Each is peppered with historical figures albeit with a fantastic twist, such as Queen Victoria, Empress of India and Mars!
It is hard to pick a favourite because each novella is so different, flitting between genres under the general steampunk banner. Angels of the Abyss is science-fiction, The Well of Shambala is an old-fashioned adventure romp and The Bridge to Lemuria evolves from a detective story to a giant monster movie! Perhaps it is unfair to pick a favourite because all six tales are interlinked through their characters, events and references, and they are neatly drawn together by the final instalment. Although, for the record, Lemuria is my favourite.
The Gears of Madness is a towering accomplishment which deserves a large readership and a Netflix adaptation. Fans of Sherlock and Doctor Who will love these adventures, so grab yourself a copy now. This is Grant's magnum opus.