Definitely dieselpunk rather than steampunk, but still the first book I found with a hot air balloon (which is reeled in by the crew of a zeppelin in the first scene).
This is the stuff you want: High adventure – literally – with a big chunk of science thrown in (not mad science, but hey-look-an-awesome-new-species science). The science wasn’t quite as interesting to me as the pirates (oh, did I not mention the zeppelin pirates?) but the book itself is great and the characters are interesting, believable, flawed, and highly capable of almost anything.
The story isn’t all that great, but the action is fun. It’s always nice to pick up a book by an unfamiliar author and know at once you’re in good hands. It didn’t quite live up to its promise, but I’d definitely read more books by this guy.
The balloon was not really moving as the wind was so light. We were rapidly gaining. There was something eerie about it, just hanging there like a dead thing, dark and listless in the sky. After a few moments, the captain’s voice sounded over the speaking tube.
“We can’t raise anyone on the Endurance, Mr Cruse. No signs of life?”