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Monday, June 25, 2012

The Hidden Institute by Brand Gamblin

Genre: Science Fiction, Steampunk

Setting: Earth of the future

First Sentence: Lord Wheylan Simmons was not in attendance when his valet was murdered.

Brand Gamblin has created a unique universe for this interesting novel.  There is advanced technology such as automatons and vehicles called jumpers.  There are lunar colonies.  However, the rich and powerful ride in carriages.

In Gamblin's world, the upper class consists of nobles: dukes, earls, princes and a king.  The nobles' disdain of the lower class is so complete that even their servants and laborers must be of noble blood.  There is no legal way for someone of the lower class to advance into the ranks of the nobles.  For a lower class person to impersonate a noble is treason.

The Hidden Institute trains youths of the lower class in the ways of the nobles.  They call it regentrification.  Students learn how to eat, walk, and talk like a noble.  When they graduate, students infiltrate the ranks of nobility as servants and skilled laborers although it is illegal to do so.  Even the lowest noble servant makes significantly higher salary than a lower class worker.

In this novel, we follow the adventures of a lower class youth named Cliffy.  Being a streetwise kid, Cliffy knows how to make the best of an interesting situation. By being in the right place at the right time, Cliffy gains entry to the Hidden Institute.  There he learns to polish his language and behavior.  He also learns about a secret society of assassins that use the institute to train its killers.

Can Cliffy successfully use his training to enter the noble class, and avoid the  revenge of the assassins?

I enjoyed this novel.  Cliffy's streetwise  lingo reminded me of the youth gang slang in "Clockwork Orange."  The Institute put me in mind of Hogwarts Academy.  And, the steampunk counterpoint of technology and  Victorian society is fun to read.  Gamblin's universe is so unique that it could form the basis of a longer more complex novel.

It's a fun read, but it could have been better.

The Hidden Institute

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