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Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant – Steampunk!

April 9, 2012

34. Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories edited by Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant (2011)

Length: 432 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Short-Story Anthology, Steampunk Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Started: 23 March 2012
Finished: 26 March 2012

Where did it come from? My library.
Why do I have it? I don’t remember specifically, but once I saw the author list, I was sold.

Hold on tight to your
corsets; steampunk is moving
out of old London.

Summary: The term “steampunk” conjures up visions of gaslit foggy London alleyways, but the stories in Steampunk! set out to prove that image wrong. They all take the trappings of steampunk and move them out of London, out of the Victorian era, and into times and places that steampunk’s never been before.

Individual Reviews: – “Some Fortunate Future Day” by Cassandra Clare involves a girl left alone in a house with only her clockwork dolls for company. I liked this one a lot, although it ended right at a critical point, making me anxious to know what happened next.

– “The Last Ride of the Glory Girls” by Libba Bray is a western, with a team of outlaw girls that use a clockwork time device to commit their train robberies. One of my favorites in the collection: girl-power western, train heist, and a substantial steampunk feeling without the fog.

– “Clockwork Fagin” by Cory Doctorow is a tale of an orphanage taken over by the orphans after the cruel master dies. This was also a great story, although a take on Dickens is not necessarily the best way to take steampunk to new locations, even if the orphanage was technically in Canada, not London. (Bonus: Podcast version!)

– “Seven Days Beset by Demons” by Shawn Cheng is a comic involving a young maker of clockwork scenes who falls for a young lady.

– “Hand in Glove” by Ysabeau S. Wilce. A detective has to solve a series of murders, strangulations of random people in the street with no witnesses. While I’m not sure how well all of the various elements in this story fit into a steampunk framework, I definitely enjoyed the mystery.

– “The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor” by Delia Sherman. When a young lord returns to the run-down and haunted Cwmlech Manor with clockwork servants and a plan. I don’t know that I would have predicted it, but it turns out that ghost stories and steampunk go together surprisingly well.

– “Gethsemane” by Elizabeth Knox is set in a Caribbean colony, on the brink of a volcano eruption. Not my favorite, felt like more of a zombie story, that was only really “steampunk” because there was an airship tossed in.

– “The Summer People” by Kelly Link also didn’t feel super-steampunk. It involves a young girl who is stuck in her small town, as a caretaker to a mysterious house filled with even more mysterious things. The only steampunk element was some clockwork toys the summer people leave behind, but it was such a good, creepy fairy story that I didn’t care.

– “Peace in Our Time” by Garth Nix involves a master artificer in retirement, and a surprise visitor who wants him to remember things in his past that he’d rather forget. An interesting story, although I had a decent idea of how it was going to play out.

– “Nowhere Fast” by Christopher Rowe is a near-future post-apocalyptic, in which peak oil is a thing of the past, and a man who arrives in town in a personal car is an object of suspicion. The pacing in this story felt strange, and I didn’t really get steampunk feeling from it.

– “Finishing School” by Kathleen Jennings is another comic, this time of two young girls in colonial Australia, who have their own reasons for resisting the curriculum of glorifying the airships that patrol the continent.

– “Steam Girl” by Dylan Horrocks is a story of the new girl in school, who doesn’t fit in, but has a fantastic imagination, wherein she tells the tales of Steam Girl and her adventures across the solar system.

– “Everything Amiable and Obliging” by Holly Black is a story of robot servants and a young girl who falls in love with her robot dancing instructor, as he falls for her. It had a Ray-Bradbury-esque feel to it, and I’m always a sucker for a good romance, so I was sold.

– “The Oracle Engine” by M. T. Anderson is set in the time of the Roman Empire, and involves a young man who builds a calculating machine that can take the place of the oracles in predicting the will of the gods and the courses of battles. From a story level, this wasn’t my favorite (not bad by any means, but pretty heavily focused on military strategy), but I thought it did the best job of any story in the collection at creating a world that used no traditional steampunk elements but felt thoroughly steampunky nonetheless.

Recommendation: Not as uniformly excellent as some of the other themed anthologies I’ve read, but it’s a fun idea, and the good stories area really, really good. If you’re a fan of steampunk, or if you haven’t read much of it but are curious to see what it can do as a genre, this collection provides a good sampling. 4 out of 5 stars.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Bart’s Bookshelf, Dear Author, Stella Matutina and more at the Book Blog Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • Location 1137: “His name was William Sansousy, a métis boy who’d come from the wild woods of Lower Canada seeking work in Muddy York, who’d found instead an implacable machine that had torn off his leg and devoured it without a second’s remorse. He spoke English with a thick French accent and slipped into joual when he was overcome with sorrow.” – the offspring of an American Indian and a white person, especially one of French ancestry; any of the nonstandard dialects of Canadian French, characterized by deviations from the standard phonology, morphology, syntax, and vocabulary, and often containing many borrowings from English.
  • Location 4991: “One of the decemvirs of Rome discovered that the Sybilline Books, in which all the civic rituals and laws of sacrifice are set out had, in the night, grown warts.” – a member of a permanent board or a special commission of ten members in ancient Rome, especially the commission that drew up Rome’s first code of law.
  • Location 5058: “He was taken in by an unnamed member of that clan and, we may presume, shortly thereafter began working in the Guild of Mechanics, taking the adoptive agnomen Machinator, that is to say, “Engineer.” He worked diligently to learn his art, and by the time he was twenty-one years of age, he had distinguished himself for his ingenuity, devising new swivels for the solar platters on the civic quinqueremes.” – an additional, fourth name given to a person by the ancient Romans in allusion to some achievement or other circumstance, as “Africanus” in “Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus.”
  • Location 5150: ““I speak of Daedalus, who built the Labyrinth of Crete and made its walls to shuffle so the Minotaur could clamp its victims with no hope of their escape; the same Daedalus, who, when this atrocity was completed, the corridors creaking open and closed along their toothed coulisses, sought to flee the isle of Crete with Icarus, his son, inventing the first flying machines so they could do so.” – a timber or the like having a groove for guiding a sliding panel.
  • Location 5164: ““I can say no further – nor should I, since night has so advanced, and I must return to my study, my lamp, and my lucubrations.”” – laborious work, study, thought, etc., especially at night.
  • Location 5305: “The lictors did not move to apprehend the raving engineer.” – one of a body of attendants on chief magistrates, who preceded them carrying the fasces and whose duties included executing the sentences of criminals.
  • Location 5375: “Astonished, the Roman host hesitated while the armed cataphracts galloped toward them, raising a storm of sand, while above them, the unexpected whirring air chariots advanced.” – a suit of ancient Roman scale armor for a man or horse.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2012 10:17 am

    This sounds like a great collection! Adding it to the wishlist.

    • April 18, 2012 5:29 pm

      Trisha – I hope you can lay hands on a copy, and that you enjoy it!

  2. celialarsen permalink
    April 9, 2012 5:28 pm

    I need to read this one. I’ve found that I love the short story form, and I love steampunk, and I ADORE Kelly Link. Really… what have I been doing? Ordering it now. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • April 18, 2012 5:31 pm

      Celia – I have mixed luck with Kelly Link; sometimes her stories are my least favorite in a collection (Geektastic), and sometimes they’re among my favorites (this one). But in any case, yes, you need to read this book!

  3. Amritorupa Kanjilal permalink
    April 11, 2012 12:18 am

    I adore steampunks and this book sounds fascinating! Thank you!

  4. April 14, 2012 7:31 pm

    We have this at my library, and every time I see it I think, “Hmmmm . . . should I?” I have yet to read it, but your endorsement may actually get me to actually check it out!

    • April 18, 2012 5:49 pm

      Emily – If you do, I hope you like it! If nothing else, it might be worth browsing just for the stories by your favorite authors…


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