Here's the very first review in Bookseller & Publisher - which is the magazine for bookshops and people in the book trade.
Bookseller & Publisher (April to July issue)
Worldshaker (Richard Harland, A & U, $17.99, pb, ISBN 9781741757095, May) ****
(four stars - as good as it gets!)
Richard Harland's new YA novel is an enjoyable romp set entirely aboard the Worldshaker juggernaut--a city-sized vehicles that trundles around the world on giant rollers. The society that inhabits this vessel is a strictly hierarchical one with an elite aristocracy who live in luxury on the upper decks while a subclass of oppressed workers (known as Filthies) is confined to the lowest levels alongside huge, dangerous steam engines. The hero, Colbert Porpentine, initially accepts his lot in life as the nominated successor to the Supreme Commander. A chance encounter with an escaped Filthy, however, opens his eyes to the evil reality of the world he inhabits causing him to reassess all that he had been told and believed in up till then. Richard Harland has an eye for the grotesque and peoples his novel with some highly eccentric characters (with equally odd names). This, along with the pseudo-Victorian setting, makes for an atmospheric tale told with humour and a genuine emotional depth. Col's gradual awakening provides the book with plenty of narrative momentum and the resourceful Riff makes a feisty heroine. The author's easy-to-read writing style makes this an ideal recommendation for the target 12-16-year-old age group.
Reviewed by James Francis, bookseller at Reader's Feast in Melbourne
While waiting for some more reviews to appear, here's the full text of D.M. Cornish's response (of which only a snippet featured in the book's back cover blurb) -
The idea of alternative histories for the world is deeply fascinating and in Worldshaker Mr Harland has provided a marvellously otherly vision of the 21st Century with wonderfully bizarrely named people and a claustrophobic setting of rivets, iron and steam, rustling silks and stiff collars and even stiffer manners; dark, twisting, bustling, brilliant – steam-punk, if I dare use the term, at its purest, its truest… And amidst it all, a strong indictment of the imperialistic ravages of the Western world. What a delight to read the words of a soul who shares the same grim tastes and love of playful language. Very very glum when it came to an end – returning to the book I was in the midst of reading when I took up World-shaker,I find it very thin and pallid in comparison.
I’m off to plunder Mr Harland’s back catalogue.
(D.M. Cornish is the author of international best-selling fantasy trilogy, Monster Blood Tattoo, recently nominated for a Nebula Award)
Hah! Here's another review that just appeared in Aurealis Express (the on-line Aurealis for the Australian speculative fiction community)
Aurealis Express, 16.4.09
Worldshaker by Richard Harland
Allen and Unwin
Review by Crisetta MacLeod
This is a steampunk story told by a master of his craft, and supreme master of his genre. The Worldshaker is a juggernaut, a world in itself. It and the juggernauts of other nations were created after the Industrial Revolution, which has turned out very differently (France conquered England!) Worldshaker trundles greedily around the world seeking coal to keep itself fed and mobile.
The upper decks enjoy a life of decadence, while degraded “Filthies” slave in darkness in the bowels. Even worse, the upper class dredges up a Filthy at will, to be converted into a Menial, a servant for their lavish lifestyle.
The protagonists are Col, heir to the controlling family, and Riff, a fourteen-year-old girl who’s plotting a Filthy Revolution. At Col’s school, social class is more important than intelligence, and bullying is trenchantly described. But Col is also learning to fight, trained by Riff. Col’s struggle is between accepting his heritage of power and wealth, or rejecting it as he realises it is based on shocking human rights violations. You want horror? Read about how a Filthy is changed into a Menial! And Col’s sweet old strawberry-scented granny …
Kinokuniya Bookshop Newsletter Review
by Richard Harland
Col lives on the Upper Decks of the juggernaut Worldshaker, a mobile city as big as a mountain. He has been chosen as next Supreme Commander - but then a girl Filthy escaped from Below appears in his cabin. 'Don't let 'em take me!' she begs. Will he hand her over, or will he break all the rules? Col's safe, elite world is about to fall apart.
A brilliant fantasy that will hook you from the very first page, set aboard a huge ship-city in which the elites live on the top decks while the Filthies toil below. Strong writing, a vivid alternative world and characters you'll never forget.
GLEEBOOKS – CHILDREN’S BOOKSHOP
Worldshaker by Richard Harland
Gripping from page one, Worldshaker is a terrific fantasy set aboard a massive city-ship in which wealth is only for the privileged elite and poverty equals slavery. Having been groomed for greatness all his life, teenager Col, due to become the next Supreme Commander, is shocked to find in his cabin a Filthy, one of the bottom deck slaves. More astounding is that she can speak, is intelligent, and exhibits the same emotions as Col, all of which are counter to what he’s been taught. Covertly, and against all his instincts, Col is drawn into investigating the ignored world of the Filthies, and he discovers the reality of life without the safety of money and influence. Shades of steampunk pervade this multi-layered allegory of contemporary life, and I’d be surprised if anyone could read it without starting to explore and question their own assumptions and actions. There’s a strong visual element to Worldshaker which would translate superbly to film. Powerful, compelling, and highly recommended. Lynndy Bennett ($18, PB)
BOOKTOPIA REVIEW (Australian online bookshop)
A brilliant fantasy that will hook you from the very first page, set aboard a huge ship in which the elites live on the top decks while the Filthies toil below. Col's safe, civilized world on the upper decks of the Worldshaker, a huge ship that has been sailing since 1845, is changed forever when a Filthy from below finds her way into his cabin. Richard Harland has created an acutely observed and utterly compelling Gothic world of warped Victoriana to explore 16-year-old Col's journey from cosseted youth to courageous maturity.