** This book review is part of the Apex Back Catalog Blog Tour **
For a novel that started out, according to the Acknowledgments, as a joke Maurice Broaddus mentioned on Twitter, saying ‘I’m going to write a steampunk story with an all-black cast and call it Pimp My Airship,’ this has turned out to be one of the best novels of 2019 for me. Sleepy is one of the most memorable protagonists in recent years I’ve encountered. He has one of the most unique and engaging introductions I’ve ever read, and the worldbuilding in this novel hooked me right from the start. The novel also alternates between very formal tones then switches effectively between more modern speech, which I thought lent the work a nice sense of immediacy. For those who love their steampunk, this book will not disappoint. I hope this novel gets a film or screen adaptation one day as it would make for a phenomenal film, and possesses a wonderful filmic quality.
Sleepy transitions from city worker to performer with great aplomb. He soon encounters another character known as Knowledge Allah. Knowledge wants to recruit Sleepy to a movement known as the Cause, which is working to combat the forces of Albion “in its American colony.”
One of my favourite lines was after Knowledge delivered an explanation about how the Cause operates using cells and Sleepy’s response was: “I don’t know which of us is supposed to be high right now.” Broaddus definitely includes an ample measure of humour in this piece, which I thought was executed very well.
Although an invented/fantasy setting runs through as the undercurrent of this novel, it includes salient portrayals of racism and how people of colour are treated in contrast to white people.
Sophine is one of the other major characters in this novel, and she comes from the complete opposite world of Sleepy. She’s being considered for marriage by a snob she doesn’t care for, Melbourne. And there are robots. Did I mention there are robots? Just when you think the novel can’t get any cooler, it absolutely does. Characters that are usually pitted on opposite sides work together in this highly entertaining fantasy/sci-fi fusion novel from Broaddus, who, although better known for his horror fare, does a masterful job with Pimp My Airship. For those who enjoyed P. Djèlí Clark’s The Black God’s Drums released last summer from Tor, they will definitely enjoy Broaddus’s novel.