For Alan Shaw, escaping the workhouse was only the beginning of the adventure.
For an orphan growing up alone on the streets of Victorian London, staying alive is a daily battle, filled with choices a child should never have to make. This is Alan’s lot in life, until he is offered more money than he can imagine; enough to take him to the new world to begin a new life. He only has to complete one task; something that could bring the British Empire to its knees.
In a series of adventures that take him from sea to sky, from Brighton to Bombay, Alan grows up in a steam-driven era where Automatons walk the streets of London and dirigibles master the air. Pitted against mad alchemists, tentacled submersibles, bomb-wielding saboteurs and the apocalyptic army of the Ordo Fenris, Alan has his work cut out for him.
With a past as dark as his, who knows what Alan might grow up to be?
Set in the mid nineteenth century, The Adventures of Alan Shaw follows a young orphan as he is dragged up on the streets of Victorian London. Alan, like any other street urchin, fights for survival and earns his pennies doing odd jobs for the locals and working in a pub for a violent landlord. Dreaming of a life in America, Alan is willing to do anything to escape his lack of life in London. When the opportunity offers itself in exchange for one simple delivery, Alan cannot believe his luck, but it comes at the cost of much destruction.
From the first tale ‘Alan Shaw and the Fate of the Automatons’ we are spring-boarded into Alan’s adventures which fulfil his dream of leaving London. The novel is told in a third person narrative over the course of five stories, each separated by a few years as we see Alan grow from a child to a young adult. At the end of each story is a newspaper article which celebrates Alan’s bravery or reports a crime that has occurred, setting the reader up with a cliff-hanger and leading into the next tale. In addition the illustrations which appear before each story, that depict Alan and the characters who will support him during each adventure. I liked that Hallam included images before each tale, as it helped you put a name to the face of the characters.
In terms of the characters, I found all of the main characters to be likeable, but my favourite would have to be Alan, if not only for his sense of humour. Alan has not had an easy time of it to say the least; his experiences are raw and significant to the growth of his character throughout the novel. Despite all life has thrown at him, Alan never loses his charm and fearlessness, and you become invested in his character and him seeing his adventures through to the very end. Initially, I could not warm to Alan’s character, but as he matures I found him to be more endearing.
Another character I took a liking to was Sarah, wife of Callas who owns Harkers, the pub Alan works at as a child. Sarah acts as a mother figure for Alan during the early chapters, chatting to him in the kitchen, tickling him, and helping him to evade Callas when he’s angry. I really liked the relationship between these two, it showed a more sensitive side to Alan’s character when often he can appear quite hardened by his experiences.
The Adventures of Alan Shaw stays true to its sci-fi/steam punk genre with its recurring theme of machinery. The machines described in the novel are very creative and I really liked how even then society relied heavily on machinery to do everyday tasks, such as the Automatons sweeping the streets, thus taking jobs away from the young street dwellers. Throughout the novel the use of machinery becomes of greater use to the villains in the tales – including a giant tentacled ship intent on destruction and brass monkeys out for whatever they can get their hands on! Hallam describes the machines in such detail it is not difficult to conjure up images of what they would look like. It is clear Hallam has done his research when it comes to locations Alan ventures of too. The descriptions do a wonderful job of helping you put the scene together.
Initially I was unsure whether this novel would be for me, but I am pleased to say I was wrong. The Adventures of Alan Shaw is fun and fast-paced, filled with warm characters, humour and extremely interesting escapades. The cliff-hangers make it pretty impossible to leave for long, and I often found myself staying up to finish a story just so it could be put down for the night. This was a different read for me, but one I came to thoroughly enjoy. One thing I know for sure is that I will be joining Alan on his next bout of adventures!
Last but certainly not least, thank you to Craig Hallam who sent me a copy of The Adventures of Alan Shaw Volume One to review, it is much appreciated. However, this has in no way influenced my thoughts or opinions on the book, as always my reviews are honest, filled with my own thoughts and contain no spoilers!
Let me know what you think if you have read or do read The Adventures of Alan Shaw Volume One!