Steampunk! is an anthology of the magic thirteen stories from various authors attempting to write something original and exciting as the genre by mixing all kinds of genre fiction against the backdrop of steampunk world although some might feel out of context.
This is probably the first time I had some difficulties in judging an anthology that I use what is left of my algebra to determine the rating and this is what I came out with. The book is a worthy investment and there are great stories in this collection which outweigh its flaws. Considering most of the story is quite Young Adult, I don’t suppose many would like it that way. But the genre is quite vast and the enjoyment is to each of their own.
In Cassandra Clare’s “Some Fortunate Future Day”, it began with her character, Rose living alone with her mechanicals in her home amidst a war and found an injured you man and nurse him until he’s well with the help of her mechanical dolls. During the duration of time, she admires the man and fell in love in him and sought for his affection. Unfortunately as a teenage love, the story can border on needy unhealthy obsession and unrealistic view on love and also immaturity that made the story quite problematic and definitely morbid. Had I took the story in a somewhat less twisted point of view, it can be quite disappointingly shallow. (0.5)
With Libba Bray’s “The Last Rite of the Glory Girls”, which told a YA Western about a girl who infiltrates a group of girl gang and find her calling. As I am Asian enough to have no fascination over most romanticized Western stories, I also find the story isn’t as compelling as it is meant to be. I mean, gritty strong rebellious girls, who wouldn’t like that right? Except me. Plus the whole religion subtext is quite overwhelming for someone who basically have no Christian education whatsoever to understand why some of the characters behave in certain way (ironically for a muslim I know) or terms that the author think I should know. Most importantly, I didn’t really find clarity from those to connect with the plot which made the story lost its allure. (0)
Cory Doctorow’s “Clockwork Fagin” is one fascinating tale about an orphanage for the orphaned disabled kids and the kids suffered under a brutal caretaker which uses them to be beggars (happen in modern times too) and at the same time, abuses them whenever he like. Until one day a boy came and kill that cruel man and offered the kids a way to escape their cruel life with some ingenious mechanical trick. Honestly, I noted the Dickens in this story but then I was quite amazed through the story amid the gloomy storyline and suddenly there’s gore and then genius moments and then a satisfying and rather moralistic end. This prove to be one of the clever and unexpected story in this anthology. (1)
In Shawn Cheng’s “Seven Days Beset by Demons”‘s graphic story told in a week length interval of the thematic ‘Seven Sins’ about a smart clockwork peddler who sells clockwork pieces inside a globe and found himself in love with a girl. Interesting enough the story goes from hopeful to downright depressing as he found out that the love of his life is engaged to a jerk (well what other thing should the main character see in him really). If you aren’t easily pissed off by random graphic story, you should be aware that not all writer can draw and let alone draw graphic novels. However had the character not suffered this insta-love in such small time, he would have redeemed himself rather than becoming the way he is at the end. (0.5)
Ysabeau S Wilce’s “Hand in Glove” is more up to my usual reads about Constable Etreyo who had doubt about the incarceration of a man who is said to commit serial murders in the city and she became desperate when the man was doomed to be hung when she knew there’s a real killer out there. If one could remember the world created in Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes and BBC’s Ripper Street, this story neatly align with the usual investigative story with a ‘Mary Shelley’ twist. (1)
On Delia Sherman’s “Ghost of Cwmlech Manor”, it began with the story of how Cwmlech Manor gained its ghost and a girl who became fascinated by the story and became the new heir’s housekeeper with a condition that he would cook for him as his automaton and his hobbies can’t feed him properly. Despite being a ghost story, the plot took an interesting turn that made the story unpredictable in some point. Another story deserving a full length novel as it should. (1)
Ah, “Gethsemane”. Elizabeth Knox’s literary fiction about a woman and a girl, a man and a boy on an island where everything flourish and filled with meddlesome gossiping folks of with stories of witches, airships people and weird events that forebodes the island ultimate fate. Personally I felt the story drags into meaningless oblivion with unnecessary characterization and no plot clarity whatsoever. The only salvageable came from this story was the probably comprehensible resolution at the end. I guess the point is to suck all the words and the style and the prose and immerse in a the solitary cocoon of written intricacies. Problem is, I question everything the author did to a story or a plot or the characterization and etc. I can’t accept these things blindly without mulling over to see what fits. I only see bloated ambitious writing with no context. It cause indigestion. Plus not single one review on this story actually told anything consistent about the story. What is the point in there? (0)
Kelly Link’s “The Summer People” is a YA fantasy about Alice in Wonderland and the fae. Normally I would have like it better at the author done well enough with the story without the christian elements (again, I don’t really mind about reading other’s faith but I don’t really find the connection with the story which make the element needless in the storyline. At least, write about it in a way anyone would have connected themselves with it instead of giving an afterthought on it). Personally, I don’t find Fran interesting as a character. It would be interesting if she was a protagonist who have some actual personality than going through the motions. (0)
Yes, there’s a Garth Nix story and this is it. “Peace in Our Time” is a compelling story of a man redemption and the story reminded me of some of Nathaniel Hawthorne which I’ve grown to love. When the protagonist aren’t the way you would have expected, it does make the story move away from conventional means. The steampunk element in this is quite possibly the most correct in this book which made the act of reading became an act of revelation. Subtle placement of conflict and effective world building in around 12 paperback page, so far it did what it meant to be. (1)
Christopher Rowe’s “Nowhere Fast” can be appropriately reason enough why I don’t look forward to stuff written for men or written in a way that made some people (me) hard to connect to the content. Its a post-apocalyptic story of a town and its community and the American culture. Sadly, the only steampunk element was in the vehicle that suddenly pop into the town. Honestly, this would have been better with zombies in it. (0)
Another graphic novel by Kathleen Jennings called “Finishing School”. If you like the art in Tin-Tin or Osamu Tezuka stories, this short story is pretty well crafted and the content is quite inspiring and girl empowering. Set in a boarding girl school where a school girl befriended a weird girl who was outspoken and too intelligent for her own good and challenge the conventional views inflicted upon her. (1)
Dylan Horrock’s “Steam Girl” introduce us to an inception of stories from the point of view of the narrator who found himself fascinated by an alienated girl in his high school where she told him the story of Steam Girl who had adventures with her father and fight evil in mars. I actually prefer this above the pulpy “Princess of Mars” and is quite similar in vein with the 2006 movie “The Fall”. (1)
For those loving steampunk romance, Holly Black’s “Everything Amiable and Obliging”. Although the story is quite similar to Jane Austen-like romance but there’s the clockwork machines that does the work for them instead of the servants and the house itself is a large machine. Despite the overall shallowness of the characters, the forbidden love and etc, I find myself enjoying the story. Its quite similar to Marrisa Meyer’s Cinder in a way. (0.5)
and finally the Roman tragedy classics appropriation by M.T. Anderson which told us about Marcus Furius and his story and the revenge element in it, the birth of “Oracle Engine”, the rise of Rome and the common Rome associated stories and the eventual destruction. I enjoy the inclusion of the known Roman works and was familiar with them from the online course I’ve involved in last year. But the story is quite passively narrated and the story is really just paraphrases of chosen classics and a summary of a very complicated story. I think it would do more justice had it been a proper length for it. (0.5)