Mud and Brass – Steampunk Short Story

By Andrew Knighton
Published on: August 12, 2014

A steam punk world where machines and wealth are seemingly the most important thing. A world where industry rules supreme.


How far would you go for love, or for justice, or for the perfect gearwheel?

Thomas Niggle grew up a mudlark, hunting for scrap on the polluted banks of the River Burr. One of the countless poor living in the shadows of Mercer Shackleton’s vast factories, he has dragged himself out of poverty using his mechanical skills. An encounter with Gloria Shackleton, the Mercer’s daughter, offers Niggle the possibility of love, but it also offers something else, deep in the heart of the Mercer’s domain.

What hope can the future hold for a boy raised amidst the mud and brass?

A steampunk story of romance, vengeance and twisted technology.


Poor Thomas Niggle. Thomas spent his youth digging around in the mud. Spent years going through the filth from the dyeing vats that had been dumped over and over again into the river causing a muddy waste. Dumped with the muddy waste were salvageable items. Kids would then go through it in order to find anything they can sell. However, that is not all that is being dumped with the waste into the river. Something worse is dumped there too. Something human.

Thomas was one of the lucky ones – he had a skill that allowed him to get out of the mud. He’s not rich or wealthy, but he’s better off than where he was as a boy. To me, Thomas seems incredibly shy and awkward, especially when he meets Gloria, whom it is apparent he has a crush on. He offers to fix something for her, which is when the action starts to take off.

Mud and Brass has a nice steampunk/dystopian atmosphere and reminds me quite a bit of the early 1900s and all the environmental protection laws that didn’t quite exist yet. Although I never read the book and have absolutely no plans to, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair came to my mind several times while reading this short story. (My teachers in high school went over the book in great detail.) However, the story was a little slow for me and then I also didn’t quite catch on to a couple of parts immediately or didn’t completely understand where the story was heading. This short story has a lot of good reviews on it, so it was probably just me.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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