An Airship Named Desire by Katherine McIntyre is a solid yarn about First Mate Beatrice (Bea) (I’m not sure we ever get her last name) of the Airship Desire. This is the first steampunk novel I have ever read. It is set (interestingly) in an alternate future in the year 2030 after the end of The Great European War. Weirdly California appears not to exist in this alt-reality which places the coast at Reno. The world is also menaced by a rogue army of brutal pirates called the Morlocks.
The story has a nice dense weave that follows three major plot lines including a mysterious lockbox that everyone wants, a big betrayal within the Desire’s crew, and some romantic tension between Bea and her shaggy-haired navigator, Geoff.
Beyond Bea and Geoff, the story of Desire is peopled by the ensemble cast of the Desire’s crew which includes (Star Trek like) a navigator, engineer, doctor, recon dude, crew etc. many of whom have their own mini stories.
An Airship Named Desire is has a solid plot, and sports an excellent ending. I also enjoyed some nice reversals in terms of sex roles. Bea is by far the toughest character and also suffers from an inability to express herself emotionally. Geoff is cool with supporting Bea.
There were some things I would change about “Desire” however. Probably (for me) the most glaring issue is that some sections of the plot felt a bit by-the-numbers. People (villains and secondary characters) often seem to be in stasis, waiting for Bea to show up so they can do their thing. Want to find a villain? They’ll be in a bar waiting to fight you. Need a new recon guy? He’ll be waiting in the bar to help you fight said bad guys. (I’m talking to you Mordecai!) it all feels a bit like a video game.
In a similar vein, some of Bea’s solutions to various crises also come across as a bit pat. For example in one scene, when they have to open the mysterious lock box, the solution seems too easy.
Finally, some of the metaphors come across as weird Writing hiccups. Probably the most flamboyant offender was this one: “Their shadow stretched along the crevasse between the warehouse like a mutated black alligator stomping in an aluminum river.” Just reading that hurt my brain. In the authors defense, this may have been an over-the-top attempt at comedy
Overall, I recommend An Airship Named Desire as a fun, engaging, swashbuckling adventure. And while I did wish that the plot had been more organic and and a bit tighter, I could not help but Root for Bea and her allies. The book was fun and I definitely recommend checking it out!