I did myself a small disservice when I read this book; I picked it up off the shelf at the public library and did not consider whether I should backtrack and read the earlier novels in the series first.
Accordingly, although I enjoyed the book and particularly got a kick out of its last third, which is where most of the real action takes place, I could probably have enjoyed it much more if I had done myself a favor and noted that this is NUMBER FOUR of a series in which a great many details of the characters and milieu were probably well established in earlier books.
That being said, as a stand-alone reading experience, Ganymede will still hold up reasonably well. I am not a fanatic for the genre, so a book cannot simply slide by my critical eye by giving me a few corsets and cogs; it takes engaging characters and some sort of intelligent approach to technology, politics, and social issues to make me willing to re-write the past.
I enjoyed the classic New Orleans characters of the books, the rebellious Free people of Colour who have dug in their heels to resist the occupation of their city by a pro-slavery South and a pro-Southern Republic of Texas. I am as willing as the next girl to indulge in the fantasy of air pirates as well, since I’ve always had a weakness for airships and those alternate universes where they are a dominant mode of transport.
As an archaeologist I was already quite familiar with the excavation and history associated with the H.L. Hunley, the Confederate-era submarine which was declared a historic site on the sea bottom in Charleston harbor in 1995. Naturally I had no problem with the submarine which gives the novel its name as a subject for a work of fiction; in fact I was delighted that Priest had used the submarine as a real-life inspiration for a steampunk novel.
For those readers who may have had difficulty visualizing the submarine, in particular its stated resemblance to an airship, perhaps a picture is worth a thousand words:
In any case, this book was a fun read and I appreciated the one or two strong female characters, despite the persistent wearing of corsets. The only flaws in the book probably derive from reading it out of sequence; I suspect that certain events might have had a greater emotional impact if I had been following the story for longer, in particular the scene in which one of the characters is revealed to be living under an assumed gender.
All in all, good clean fun. I shall have to see if I can get my hands on the first book in the series; research indicates that it has won many awards.