Barnett applied the Page 69 Test to Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon, the second Gideon Smith novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:Visit David Barnett's website.Lyle moved on. “And then we have Texas. It was always wild country down there. The warlords started off as British governors, but a few of them got together after the Wall was built, decided they didn’t want to pay their taxes and didn’t want to be beholden to a London that had cut them off with the Confederacy and French Louisiana. Neither did they like being told they couldn’t keep slaves. They didn’t want any part of the Confederacy, though; they wanted to live their own way. They’re godless, violent slavers, Mr. Smith, who will stop at nothing to ensure their anarchic, lawless way of life is preserved. They’re killers, ravishers. They make their own rules, and they aren’t the rules of civilized men. They take what they want and murder anyone who tries to stop them.”How strange, that page 69 pretty sums up the entire plot. Gideon Smith and his cohorts are in America to track down the stolen brass dragon, Apep (as detailed in the first book, Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl), and the Governor of New York, Edward Lyle, is appraising them of the situation in the America of this alternate-timeline. To wit, the American revolution never happened. The British control the East Coast, the breakaway Japanese faction known as the Californian Meiji is on the West, and in what we know as Mexico – New Spain in this world – the Spanish still hold sway. Gideon is inevitably bound for Texas, a lawless former British colony now run by warlords, chief among them the half-man, half-machine Thaddeus Pinch, ruler of what used to be called San Antonio, but is now just “Steamtown”.
Lyle fell silent, and Gideon asked, “Mr. Lyle, how much do you know about our mission?”
Lyle looked around the table. “You all have the necessary clearances?”
“Of course. You can speak freely here. I would trust Mr. Bent and Rowena with my life. Have done, many times.”
Lyle nodded, though he still seemed cautious. “I received a full briefing, of course, about what you’re doing here. From the highest authority.”
“Oh, get on with it, Lyle,” said Bent. “You can say his name. He won’t magically appear behind you. Walsingham gave you the full rundown, did he?”
Lyle appeared to relax. “Yes, Mr. Walsingham. He told me that you had secured from Egypt an ancient weapon, a fabulous brass dragon that flies and shoots fireballs, powered by unknown machinery.” Lyle shook his head. “What a marvel. What a thing. Imagine what uses such an infernal device could be put to.”
“That’s the problem, Mr. Lyle,” said Gideon. “We do imagine what it could be used for. That’s why we have to get it back.”
Would this make you want to read the whole book? I hope so. It gives a flavour of the alternate-history of Gideon’s world, and features three of the main characters of the entire series – Gideon, the journalist Aloysius Bent, and the airship pilot Rowena Fanshawe. I’ll be keeping a close eye on my page 69s in future!