England in the future, the year 2018.
It all started with a coin, sort of.
Not just any old coin mind you but a Roman counterfeit coin. Maybe!
Jack Fargo, an American History Professor, and an ex Afghanistan War combatant is called to the United Kingdom to help investigate what is happening. He is a man with a talent, 'an ability to connect the dots.'
Unfortunately a gigantic explosion of some sort occurs, a temporal-effect wave, and Jack is is flung back to an alternate past of 1888, right into that 'Indiana Jones type' [exploit]. (Jack's word here was somewhat stronger). Flying machines are ironclads and dirigibles. Mars has been visited since the 18770's and is a source of the material liftwood that assists with flight.
Names like Baron Renfrew, Edison and Tesla pop up amongst others.
We have a mysterious attractive spy for the French Commune, Gabrielle Courbiere, who is so focused on things that she doesn't even acknowledge what to anyone else would be a set down. This takes the wind out of the sail of her would be taunters very effectively. Her interaction with others at times is quite amusing.
Jack's quest is to find a way to return to his own time and his daughter Sarah. His search will take him through France, to Bavaria, Serbia and beyond with a group of different yet interesting characters.
An excellent understanding of both the history and politics of our times and of those of the past in order to make the connections and alternate happenings believable is crucial. All kudos to Chadwick. He has demonstrated that ability in spades.
The What If's certainly open up a wonderful panorama of nuanced possibilities.
A cleverly written steampunk novel, that is at times tragic, at others humorous, but mostly a jolly good read that kept me up longer than I should have been.
A NetGalley ARC