Making the World Safe for Steampunk

 

Knight Watch is back, in a new account of their adventures. They plug leakage from the weird world into the mundane world, keeping monsters of the Unreal firmly where they belong.

The Eccentrics by Tim Akers, the series’ third novel, takes a trip into the world of steampunk. Steampunk is fantasy as firmly as Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

The Eccentric Society of Curious Adventurers, Extravagant Explorers, and Philosophers of Scientific Renown (Eccentrics, for short), is an organization protecting the mundane world from the Gestalt (the steampunk version of the Unreal which the Knight Watch shields the world from). Nikola Tesla leads them.  Not the original. This Tesla is the eighth incarnation of the true saint of electricity. The Eccentrics need help. Vampires are back in the steampunk world. The last time, the Eccentrics needed Knight Watch before they finally succeeded in eliminating them.

There are problems, of course. The Eccentrics’ “science” (which bears as much resemblance to real science as environmental catastrophism does) is incompatible with Knight Watch magic. Unshielded, the Knight Watch’s magic could bring down the Eccentrics’ airship. John Rast (the book’s narrator and team’s ad hoc leader) with the rest of the Knight Watch team have to put all their enchanted items in a shielded compartment and travel in steerage.

Worse, Rast begins to smell a rat. Something is off about the vampire threat. The vampires seem to be victims of an unknown plotter. He begins to suspect the vampire hunt is a diversion, something to get the Eccentrics and Knight Watch tied up chasing vampires.  Meanwhile, the real threat is free to carry out the real plot, one that endangers all groups dedicated to keeping the forces of chaos contained.

Each of the Knight Watch books is a send-up of fantasy, role-playing games, and reenactment — The Eccentrics more than the rest of the series. It is an odd mash-up of classic fantasy, urban fantasy, and steampunk. Most of the book’s characters take themselves too seriously. (Only John Rast sees the absurdity of his vocation.)

Akers uses this to add to the fun. In one scene the book’s characters, stranded in Mundane Actual, play a desk-top, role-playing game to create a portal to get back to escape to a fantasy domain. In a shopping mall’s games store trading John’s magic sword to pay for the game room. The Eccentrics is a lighthearted read that will amuse fantasy readers.

This review was written by Mark Lardas, who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City, TX. His website is marklardas.com.

“The Eccentrics,” by Tim Akers, Baen Books, May 2024, 304 pages, $18.00 (Trade Paperback), $8.99 (E-book)

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