Copyright 1993 by
I first read this in July 1994.
In an alternate universe, where space really is filled with aether (and
where, as far as I can tell) gravity behaves somewhat differently), The
British Empire never faded. Indeed it now occupies the solar system,
meeting and subjugating aliens and colonising the planets and moons.
Great trading ships sail through space, while on the ground those not
blessed with gentle birth labour and slave.
Little Sophie Farthing lives with her father, a nightwatchman for High
Haven's space docks. She cleans and cooks and fetchs his opium. She
listens to his waking dreams of fantastic voyages and fabulous monsters,
and hates them all because they are nothing of the real, tough and
hopeless world in which she lives.
But then she meets a strange and powerful gentleman who seems to
recognise her, and her life changes - she smuggles herself upon a
spaceship and travels to Earth. but in this, and in her subsequent
travels, she is very much in Harm's Way.
I bought this book because of the title even though I wasn't
particularly keen on the subject matter. But what a surprise!
It's a Victorian adventure wherein our Sophie displays unexpected depths
in her encounters with strange worlds and stranger characters, and all
the time there is this wonderful Vistorian universe floating around in
the background - look at the enchanting requirements for space travel:
a glass-globed space helmet, a thick coat and nitrox lozenges.
This is magical. Read it. Especially if you've also read the very different "The Difference Engine".
Loaded on the 31st May 2001.