Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders by Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.

“Romulus Buckle was an airman, a zeppelin pilot, to be exact, or, to be less exact, in the local slang, a gasbag gremlin, a dirigible driver, a balloon goose, an air dog, or whatever moniker any lazybrat might cook up in his gin-stewed cerebellu. […] He was shot bolt-through with aviator dash, that legendary, heart-stirring dash: he laughed heartily and often, and his eyes, deep and glacier-water blue, made women swoon (all except for the beautiful Martian named Max, of course, who found him far too droll).”

Dashing or not, droll or not, Romulus Buckle is going to need every good quality he has for the mission he’s about to undertake. Balthazar Crankshaft, the doughty leader of Buckle’s own Crankshaft Clan, has been kidnapped and is being held in the impregnable and mysterious City of the Founders.

But to do that, Buckle and the crew of the Pneumatic Zeppelin must cross a frozen wasteland populated by hostile scavangers, vicious alien beasties, and enemy clans and covered by the deadly Noxious Mustard.

It’s a deadly steampunked race against time to a deadly fortress city that no one knows how to enter or leave (or leave alive anyway).