On January 1st, 1900 a group of people were born across the world that would go on to be a little more than human, a little faster, a little stronger, a little more intuitive. As adults, they would form the core members of the Century Club (along with a talking gorilla, but that's for another story), an organisation whose mission is to protect the world from the evil that lurks in the Shadows. They would stand tall against the darkness, becoming a beacon of hope and of honour. Those who met them would call them heroes, those who knew them would call them friends.
But even heroes and friends have to spend time growing up, learning life's hard lessons and allowing events to mold them into the people the world will come to love. Few heroes start adventuring in their twenties or thirties, and in the world of Spirit of the Century, the best start out as daredevil teens who have a tendency to get themselves into more trouble than your average kid.
Sally Slick and the Steel Syndicate is an action packed Young Adult novel from author Carrie Harris (Bad Taste In Boys) set in the world of Evil Hat Productions Spirit of the Century roleplaying game. It follows the release of other books set in the same world that focus on the same heroes, but later in their adventuring careers, including the first of this wave of pulp adventure novels, Dinocalypse Now, by Chuck Wendig.
Sally Slick and the Steel Syndicate follows the adventures of The Century Club's premiere inventor and gadgeteer, Sally Slick, during her first brush with the world beyond her home and away from racing tractors and tinkering with engines in her fathers garage. In this pulp action novel, Sally is just sixteen years old and unaware of her potential, or her future as a globe trotting adventurer with her childhood friend and co-star, Jet Black.
This first book, in what I hope becomes a series, is a fantastic introduction to the world of pulp heroes and villains, packed with fresh takes on classic tropes. I really, really don't want to spoil a single moment from this book, but if you're a fan of the pulp genre you'll enjoy the twists and turns the story takes as our heroes battle the bad guys to save not the world, just a family member who has fallen in over his head. If you're a fan of the Spirit of the Century world, either from the roleplaying game or the previously published novels, then you'll love seeing the characters grow over the course of the story from imaginative children into the heroes you already know.
There was much to squee loudly about over the course of Sally and Jets adventure, for new and old fans. Reveals were masterfully executed, especially... well... especially one in particular that had me smiling with joy and slapping my head that I hadn't seen it coming, despite the setup that suddenly seemed so obvious! Villains are suitably nefarious, action scenes are daring and dramatic and characters are incredibly well realized, leaping fully formed into my minds eye.
"But Dennis", I hear you asking, "what about if you've never played Spirit of the Century, or read any of the other books in the setting?" First of all, it's Denis. One "n". The French spelling. Secondly, and more important, however, is the fact the Sally Slick and the Steel Syndicate is just simply a great book. The story is fun and fast paced, the central characters are all well crafted, and each gets their time to shine, while even the secondary characters seem more rounded than some big-budget movie supporting cast (I'm looking at you, "Man of Steel").
Sally Slick and the Steel Syndicate is the perfect introduction to the world of the pulp adventurer for the young reader, and a wonderful addition to any library that might also contain Flash Gordon, Doc Savage or The Shadow. It's an easy read, without ever being too basic, an action story that gives its characters time to develop between rounds of intense and masterfully written conflict.
If Carrie Harris is a new name to you, you'll be keeping an eye out for her work after reading this. If Sally, Jet and The Century Club were unfamiliar titles before starting this adventure, then you'll find yourself seeking out their other tales of daring and heroics before you even reach the final page.