In this sequel to WORLDSHAKER, the Filthies with their Revolutionary Council (led by Riff) are in control of the iron juggernaut. Those Swanks who didn't take the opportunity to leave have moved out of the luxurious apartments, many now living craped together in the Upper Decks. Col's hopes of a better, more equal future have been battered by the growing knowledge that the Filthies don't want equality - they see this as their opportunity to make the Swanks know how it feels to be powerless. Worse, he can see Riff growing distant from him as she dedicates herself to trying to lead the juggernaut.
Matters aren't helped when a saboteur who can only be a Swank attacks key parts of the ship. With tensions rising, an ambitious young Filthy called Lye seeks to sow greater discord, including driving a greater wedge between Col and Riff. When the juggernaut begins to run low on coal, the Revolutionary Council decides to head for Botany Bay to refuel. But Botany Bay is firmly pro-Imperialist, which means that the juggernaut will have to rely on deception or brute force to get what it needs and the outcome will explode the existing tensions on the Liberator.
Richard Harland's sequel to WORLDSHAKER is an evocative steampunk adventure that sets out what happens when a revolution fails to match expectations. I hadn't read WORLDSHAKER, but you don't need to in order to follow the story as Harland recaps the key events in an easy-to-follow way.
It's through Col's eyes that the reader sees his disappointment with how things have turned out and the effects on his family (particularly his capable sister, Gillabeth, whose frustration at having nothing to do manifests itself in constantly reorganising and tidying their living quarters). Having not read WORLDSHAKER, I didn't quite get the depth of his relationship with Riff and I was a little unconvinced by how easily it's shaken by the machinations of the evangelical Lye (a well drawn and menacing character whose cunning is only matched by her fervour for getting revenge against the Swanks), but this is a minor gripe.
The plot rollocks along at a terrific pace and is action-packed. There's a lot of character death and treachery, yet Harland manages to tie up all the strands to provide a satisfying ending. I'm going to go back now to read WORLDSHAKER.
Having read Worldshaker and found it an interesting commentary and an analogy with the way some countries have developed with their own class structures I decided to get this follow up to see whether it followed close to real life. It didn't disappoint and with its mix of treachery, love issues and the background commentary on survival instincts it was well worth the read. It had a bit of Animal Farm about it which I thought was good. There was a little impression towards the end that the author wanted to get it finished and in some places that spoilt the illusions, but not enough to say other than it is well worth getting this and Worldshaker. The ending has left it open for a follow up as all good fiction should!