Short Fiction Friday: Business as Usual

Business as Usual by David Barnett, Gideon Smith #0.6

Spring, 1890, and England needs a hero. Gideon Smith is yet to step up to the role as public protector of the Empire, but in the background and the shadows, Mr Walsingham pulls strings to keep the often outlandish threats to Britain and her interests at bay. It is a role that lies heavy on his shoulders, and here we find him composing his end-of-year report to Queen Victoria.

Last month I read David Barnett's first book in the Gideon Smith series, Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl,  which was a total tour de force when it came down to showing all the different genres amongst the heavy focus of Steampunk and Alternate History. David Barnett introduced a very rich setting and some amazing protagonists. What I didn't know at the time was that David Barnett also wrote two short stories taking place prior to the events of Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl. Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon, the second book in the series, was released earlier this week, and what better way to get into the setting again by indulging in one of the short stories. 

Business as Usual is the second short story in the Gideon Smith series, the other is Work Sets You Free. I just picked up Business as Usual since I liked the cover a bit more. If you have some pre-knowledge from Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl you know that there is a special organization present that acts in the name of Queen Victoria. Business as Usual sole focus in on showing just a few glimpses of this, directly to my pleasure. I do have to say that I think it is better that you read Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl before starting this story as it will make a ton more sense. 

The story of Business as Usual doesn't focus on Gideon Smith the main protagonist of the series but on Mr. Walsingham, who is the head of the secret operations corp. In this short story he is writing a report to Queen Victoria, telling just how the year has passed, what he encountered and to which parts they have lay more focus on. Not only is Mr. Walsingham writing a report to relate everything it also feels like a confessions. He bravely admits that all the stuff that he has done in the past years hasn't all been savory and that he had committed crimes. But he does make it clear that he is not necessarily seeking redemption, he knows that what he has done cannot be turned around, instead he has learned to live with himself. Mr. Walsingham hopes for that one last chance where he can turn all the wrongs he has committed into something right. To make one final move that will make him come out as an hero. What becomes pretty clear early on in the story is that one of the heroes of Britain, Captain Lucian Trigger, needs replacement... Again if you read The Mechanical Girl, you will know just who I am talking about. If you look at the whole story, there are references wherein you glimpse several things that must have led up to events in The Mechanical Girl like that with Einstein etc. but I do stick to my opinion, read the book first and you will enjoy Business as Usual much more.

Business as Usual isn't an action packed kind of story. It is more devoted to giving much more information surrounding the world in which the Gideon Smith series takes place.I enjoyed reading the story from Mr. Walsingham's perspective as it gave a very nice view from a different side than what I have come to learn from Gideon. You can directly feel the influence of steampunk and the alternate history setting of the story by only the first few sentences and it readily got me lost in the thoughts of The Mechanical Girl again. Even though the story takes place in the 1890's with telling the story in this was David Barnett did inspire the secret service, MI6, CIA kind of vibe with showing Mr. Walsingham. One pretty cool thing that I learned in this story is that Mr. Walsingham is more of an name or job title instead of a real name! 

Business as Usual is just the type of short story that many book series need. It gives a lot of extra information about characters and the dynamics of the world it self. If you as an author don't have time to fit in information in your book or if you don't want to make it to of an infodump, this is the best thing to do. Or to just get people in the mood of reading your book. In Business as Usual, David Barnett shows the story from an interesting point of view, whereby he nicely expands the already big scope of his story just that bit more. I really enjoyed Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, and with Business as Usual I have definitely gotten in the mood for another Gideon adventure. No I just have to bide my time and wait till my copy of The Brass Dragon arrives. Can't wait!

 

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