Steampunk Review: ‘Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman’ by Balogun Ojetade

Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet TubmanTo the best of my knowledge what I just read is not a history book.  I have checked a few other sources and found nothing to suggest that Harriet Tubman actually had any kind of extreme healing abilities.  Nor could I find any reference of Stagecoach Mary having iron skin.  An elaborate subway system crisscrossing the whole continent was likewise missing from my studies.

This book has a comic book feel (actually it would make a pretty cool comic), both in its quick pace and in set up.  Apt, because the setup is X-Men in a post Civil War America.  Tubman is one of many who are supernaturally ‘gifted,’ and in the opening scenes is hired by John Wilkes Booth to rescue his daughter.  By taking the mission Harriet is pulled into an elaborate plot against both her and the country.  The action in this book goes off like a machine gun, one scene after another with very little of its word count going toward anything else.

A person’s enjoyment of this book is therefore going to be dependent completely on their tolerance for martial arts, gun play, and pure poundings.  A new larger than life historical character is introduced, his/her super power is shown, and a new action scene unfolds.  Rince and repeat.  For instance we first meet Stagecoach Mary fighting off a pack of werewolves for a bit before being rescued in Hollywood style by an airship she didn’t know was coming dropping a rope.

For the most part it worked for me.  I enjoyed all the little historical plugs, most that I recognized and a few I had to look up.  It’s over the top nature didn’t grow old, though had the book been a longer one it might have.  Like many good action books there is an undercurrent of humor that keeps things from feeling too brutal.  And a couple of the characters really stood out; I enjoyed Harriet throughout, and got a kick out of Mama Maybelle, a titan of a woman willing to do just about anything for her loved ones.

However, intentional or not, the fast pace left very little room for any kind of depth.  One villain was introduced and defeated so quickly I wonder why he was included at all.  Rapid action scenes start to run together.  Where some characters stand out, I lost track of others even within the fifty pages they disappeared because I had nothing substantial to remember them by.

Not a bad book, it had many of the same trappings as other by-the-numbers steam punk tales, just with better diversity among its characters.  At times I wish that some of the descriptions of various monsters were shorter and the time spent building some of the secondary characters a bit longer.   But these action tales work best in small doses, which thankfully is what the book provides.  It also ended on a cliffhanger, leaving the possibility of more to come.  Conclusion?  A bit rough, but an enjoyable outing.

3 stars

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