Full Throttle (Accent Press, 2017) is a fascinating story of a working-class girl’s struggles in the world of competitive car racing in an alternate Edwardian steampunk/dieselpunk setting. MSJ alum Jon Hartless weaves a compelling tale of family, friendship, and burgeoning romance set in this world, while still appealing to lovers of technology and racecars.
Poppy Orpington, the novel’s main character, has struggled with her disabilities for her whole life. Her father has had his own struggles, including the all-consuming Thunderbus, his diesel-powered automobile. In a world where cars are steam-powered, the Thunderbus is an oddity, but Robert Orpington is certain that his invention is the way of the future. After a chance casual race against a member of the upper class, the Orpingtons and Poppy’s best friend Amy are swept into a different lifestyle as they prepare to race the gargantuan Thunderbus against steam-powered racecars.
While the book primarily tells Poppy’s story, it does occasionally veer into the points of view of other characters in the story. While this head-hopping is unusual, Hartless executes this technique in a clear way that doesn’t leave the reader confused. The novel is also filled with endnotes, which are a sort of fictional author’s commentary on the story and how the pieces were put together from journals and other first-hand accounts. It’s unlike any other novel I’ve read in that regard.
This book will appeal to a wide array of readers, whether they’re fans of the real Edwardian period or alternate history, steampunk or dieselpunk, or stories dealing with the intersections of class politics, sexism, disability, and same-sex relationships, set against a backdrop of racecars.