The 1975 novel, A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! by Harry Harrison is on its surface, an excellent concept. In an alternate world, today’s United States still belong to the British Empire after a failed revolution attempt some two hundred years ago. The name of Washington is synonymous with traitor, and the distant ancestors of the rebel George are still burdened by his treacherous reputation. Our hero, Augustine Washington, hopes to redeem his family name and give glory to the Empire by using his skills as an accomplished engineer to create a Transatlantic Tunnel connecting the Americas to Britain.
There is so much opportunity for a rich tale in the concept of this novel. Unfortunately, it lacks execution, and many of the most interesting aspects of the novel get brushed aside in favor of describing the details of tunnel construction. The characters are flat and seem more like tropes than living, complex people.
That being said, A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! is a quick and easy read (providing you can get into the novel itself). It’s sure to appeal to Steampunks who are particularly interested in the tech aspect of Steampunk fiction. Technology moves the plot along in this novel more than action or character interaction does, which can make this a tedious read for some, but a unique and enjoyable experience for others.
While I would not call A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! the best book I’ve ever encountered, I would also not consider it the worst. The technology is interesting and the concept of the alternate world is intriguing although unfortunately hollow in its implementation. If you’re aiming to flesh out your experience with books that could be considered Steampunk, this is one that is worth adding to your ‘To Read’ booklist.