Getting Steamy

June 1, 2012 - 2:17 pm No Comments

As well as my usual promised reviews by publishers such as Solaris and Angry Robot, and my aim to ensure gender parity in the books I review, through June and July I am getting all steamy and reviewing lots of Steampunk novels. I’ll be introducing readers to the early Steampunk writers; K W Jeter, James P Blaylock and Tim Powers whilst also reviewing works by authors such as Cherie Priest, Gail Carriger, Raven Dane, Ekaterina Sedia and Karin Lowachee.

You will also have the opportunity to read one of my Steampunk stories for free, which will later be released in my new anthology Monsters Anonymous. So let’s just put some gears on it, and gear yourselves up for Steampunk Specials this summer! To start with, I am reviewing the Mammoth Book of Steampunk, to get you in the mood. Enjoy!

Mammoth Book of Steampunk
Author: (Ed) Sean Wallace
Publisher: Robinson
Page count/Size: 512pp
Release date: 5th April 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

With an introduction by Ekaterina Sedia, which talks about Steampunk in culture and giving a voice to those who were oppressed, the Mammoth Book of Steampunk is not your usual foray into this genre. Featuring a plethora of good solid stories by a number of talented writers, many recognised in the genre, this collection is a must have for Steampunk fans.

This anthology challenges the Steampunk tropes, also utilising them to powerful effect, to create new and exciting premises. There are so many stories I could mention here, and as with all anthologies, a number of stories that fall short, so I shall be picky and tell you about these few!
In ‘The Steam Dancer (1896) by Caitlin R Kiernan, the female protagonist is found with her leg consumed by gangrene. Her limbs are therefore replaced by mechanical parts and she becomes a dancer at a local inn. The story highlights the degradation of the period, which is rife whereas the dance makes her feel whole and alive.

‘The Zeppelin Conductor’s Society Annual Gentleman’s Ball’ by Genevieve Valentine is a strange tale, which uses structure and different narrative forms to wonderful effect in order to make the reader aware of the realities of Victorian life.

‘The Clockwork Fairies’ by Cat Rambo is a fun take, which is darkly ironic and features heroine Desiree, a mulatto scientist with a rather deluded fiancé who believes that “clever machines were simply a way to channel her maternal instinct”. This story deals with the truth of race issues during the period, as does ‘The Effluent Engine’ by N K Jemisin, set in New Orleans featuring a black female spy and scientist. This one, whilst sharing its political agenda also discusses race issues whilst delivering an adventure that is great fun, passionate and intelligent.

With stories by Aliette de Bodard and Lavie Tidhar, we also have regular genre contributors who also deliver a new spin on the genre.

The thing that makes this collection essential, is that it focuses on telling the story of the realities of Victorian life throughout the globe. As Sedia pits it, it gives a voice to the oppressed. If you’re looking for harmless, easy going Steampunk that does not challenge you, go elsewhere. If you want to be challenged and you want to think of these stories long after the collection is finished, then this is the book for you!

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