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The Steam Mole    by David Freer order for
Steam Mole
by David Freer
Order:  USA  Can
Prometheus, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

In Cuttlefish, David Freer took us underwater in his alternate early 1900s. Now, in its sequel, The Steam Mole, Freer drops us in the middle of the Australian desert where the title contraptions dig underground rail tunnels to keep citizen away from the deadly heat of the sun.

The Cuttlefish has made it to its destination in Westralia, delivering Mary Calland and her knowledge of ammonia synthesis safely. However, the Cuttlefish suffered quite a few hits and needs repairs, so the crew finds themselves dispersed throughout Westralia, many working on the steam moles. While the steam moles are as confined as a submarine, Tim Barnabas finds his fellow workers are not as friendly as the Cuttlefish crew. Because of his dark skin, Tim is immediately ostracized and is left for dead at the first chance his boss gets.

Meanwhile, Mary has fallen into a mysterious coma. Her daughter, the intrepid Clara, sets out to find her father, Jack Calland, a prisoner sent to work in Queensland. To aid in her search, she first goes to get Tim, only to find that he is somewhere out in the Westralian desert all alone. Clara, a woman of action, steals a steam mole and sets out to find him. Little does she know, she and Tim are not the only two wandering lost in the desert; her father staged a revolt and now he is on the run with a half-aboriginal boy, Lampy. The desert is hot and dangerous, but it is nothing compared to the threat to Westralia that looms on the horizon ... if anyone can survive that long.

The Steam Mole was just as action-packed as Cuttlefish. Freer does an excellent job of creating a believable alternate reality in which ice melts created a vast desert across the Australian landscape where the summer sun is unbearable. While Cuttlefish addressed many different prejudices in general, Freer uses The Steam Mole as a vehicle to really focus on racism, which adds a complex layer to an already impeccably developed story. Freer further develops Clara and Tim, but adds in a whole host of new, well-rounded characters, too. All of these elements create an amazing adventure.

The Steam Mole is the perfect sequel to Cuttlefish, as David Freer has chosen a setting and society that is almost the polar opposite of the first book. Clara is such a spunky character and she and Tim make an excellent team; I hope the two of them have at least one more adventure together.

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