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The Impossible Cube
by Steven Harper
Roc, $7.99, 380pp
Release Date: May 1, 2012

This is the sequel to “The Doomsday Vault.”

Since the end of the first book, our intrepid heroes, Alice and Gavin, are on the run from a crazy, obsessed soldier of the now-defunct Third Ward.  The Third Ward had been responsible for corralling and securing clockworkers to work for the benefit of the British Empire .  Clockworkers are those struck by the clockworker plague who do not become dying zombies but instead become unspeakably brilliant, insane inventors - but still dying.  The problem was that Alice made off with a cure for the clockworker plague and intends to vaccinate the whole world.  The cure only benefits those who are zombies or those who have just been exposed.  It does not cure those who are already clockworkers.  Those who benefit from the labors of the insane clockworkers most definitely do not want such a cure. Hence the pursuit from the Third Ward whose raison d’etre no longer exists.

Alice is not plague-ridden but seems to have an intuitive understanding of the devices created by the clockworkers; probably because her clockworker Aunt trained her.  Gavin, unfortunately, is a clockworker.  Although it seems a foregone conclusion that he will eventually die from the plague, Alice refuses to give up a search for a cure and it is rumored that China has the answer.  On their way to China , while trying to avoid the clutches of the remaining Third Ward, they end up in Kiev , where, it is said, the plague began.  In this town, the clockworkers rule and the whole population lives in fear of their children being abducted to become clockworkers. 

They travel with an insane clockworker called Dr. Clef.  The Dr. created the Impossible Cube, which, as far as I could determine, could do just about anything.  At the end of the first book, the cube disappeared.  Dr. Clef is obsessed with finding it again and it just might be what saves our brave heroes.  The only question is if Clef can save them without destroying the whole world.

Obviously there will be at least a third story where I fully expect a happy ending of Alice finding a cure for Gavin.

A very, very entertaining story.  It was very well-plotted and the world building is excellent.  But it was the characters that made it for me.  I don’t think you have to be a steampunk aficionado to enjoy these stories. ~~ Catherine Book

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