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Literature / Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin

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The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin are a Steampunk series by Richard Ellis Preston Jr. set in a post-apocalyptic California.

The apocalypse was in fact some time ago, featuring obelisks put down by misnamed "Martians" — actually aliens from much farther away — that cause electricity to fail. Also poison gas and the transformation of California into a cloud-covered iceworld. There are also a number more dangerous animals wandering about the earth, such as sabretooths.

The characters are far more interesting in surviving with all the intrigues and problems of the time. The main character, Romulus Buckle, is one of the adoptive children of the clan leader Balthazar Crankshaft, and leads a life of action and adventure as the captain of the title zeppelin.

Thus far, it consists of three novels:

  • Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders: The daring rescue of Crankshaft and other clan leaders after their treacherous capture by Founders.
  • Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War: The forming of an alliance against the Founders' treachery.
  • Romulus Buckle & the Luminiferous Aether: The crew must journey to Atlantis

and one short story:

  • An Officer and a Gentleman: Young Lieutenant Romulus Buckle faces his first great test under fire

Tropes include

  • Abnormal Ammo: The Hammergun on the Pneumatic Zeppelin and the Pneumatic Rifle, both fire large harpoons. These hit with greater force and penetration than the black powder muskets used by most people.
  • After-Action Healing Drama: When Max is savaged by the sabretooths.
  • BFG: In the first book, the Ballbusters brought along a "portable" Pneumatic Rifle. It's so big it requires two people to carry and operate it.
  • Big Bad: The Founders are the instigators of the coming war in the Snow World. They may have been the founding faction who's 4 legendary scientists saved humanity, but now they've evolved into a Nazi-like imperialists who want to take over the world.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: in spite of their being adopted, and after the age of seven, Romulus thinks being attracted to either Max or Sabrina would be this
  • Call a Pegasus a "Hippogriff": In-universe. The aliens are known not to be Martians (they're from far outside our solar system), even though they are called that.
  • Cool Airship: The Pneumatic Zeppelin is a stolen warship zeppelin that's fairly well-armoured, has a respectable amount of cannons and a turreted steam-powered rapid-fire speargun.
  • Cue the Sun: Seeing even dawn's light is impressive, because the cloudcover means that sightings of actual sun, moon, or stars are rare.
  • Crapsack World: Set centuries in the future, the world is engulfed in a new Ice Age, alien artifacts prevent electricity from being used (so humanity has reverted to scavenging and steampunk tech), alien chemical weapons have despoiled the world and they also brought dangerous creatures to occupy the new ecosystem. And then there's all the violence happening...
  • Distressed Dude: In City, Romulus's motive is to rescue his father.
  • Doctor's Orders: Romulus tries to get Max to obey him as her doctor, if not as her captain.
  • Duel to the Death: How to escape the standoff.
  • Flying Seafood Special: Flying kraken
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: Max's must have reservoirs to protect her eyes.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Max and her brother
  • Improbable Age: Romulus is only 18 years old and few of his crew are over 20. It's mentioned that between the alien diseases and attacks by raiders, it's rare to live past 30.
  • Love Triangle: Both Max and Sabrina are in love with Romulus
  • Lost Common Knowledge: Humanity has gone centuries without electricity, and so when the Romulus and a small crew were caught up in the middle of a super storm, Romulus was completely amazed to see lightning and could barely remember to call it electricity.
  • MacGuffin: In the 3rd book, the Founders are after the Atlanteans' unique Luminiferous Aether and even launch a massive blockade and invasion. In story, the aether didn't do a thing. However it's valuable in the story background as it's one of the few things that can overcome Martian EMP to generate electricity.
  • Mexican Stand Off: Romulus defuses one with a challenge
  • Steampunk: A reason is given for why the world reverted to steam engines. Giant alien pyramids generate a field that causes milk to spoil quickly and prevents the generation of electricity.
  • Powered Armor: The Founders have the Forge Walkers, which are steam-powered battlesuits that have integrated musket batteries and pop-up blades.
  • Schizo Tech: Humanity has lost the use of electricity and have difficulty making blackpowder weapons that don't explode, but they have the capacity to build steam-powered power armour and robots with A.I. They can also transfer human brains to robotic bodies.
  • Robot Buddy: The Alchemist faction makes use of these to supplement their forces. In the first book there was Owl and Newton. Owl has echolocation and a lot of speed to scout for the party, while Newton is an armoured robot with a multi-barrelled cannon for one arm. In the 2nd and 3rd book, there's the unique robot girl Penny Dreadful.
  • Take That!: A high-ranking Atlantean has a lot of contempt for 4 founding scientists who started the Founders and became heroes to the whole of humanity. He tells Romulus that the 4 Founders screwed up by shoe-horning humanity into a model based off of their steampunk, geek-hobby idealization of Victorian times while forgetting the serious issues that afflicted that time. The result is a future humanity poisoned by coal pollution, riven by nationialism and imperialism, and slaving away in factories. The 4 Founders could have made a better future had they tried
  • We Will Wear Armor in the Future: Between the poison gas, freezing weather (in Los Angeles!), thugs with muskets and alien wildlife, it's common to wear breathing apparatus with tough leather coats and fur underlay. Dedicated fighters often wear metal breastplates and limb protection.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Such as the title one