leafy foreground left
leafy foreground right

Steampunk! – continued

Where I continue my review of this anthology of short stories.

My final impression of “The Last Ride of the Glory Girls”  was a pleasant one. The story kept me interested, read well & had a satisfying conclusion.

My first impression of  “Clockwork Fagan” was that it somehow slipped through the editing cracks. Yep. There were several typos, which isn’t a big deal, I guess, but I’d be gutted if I was Cory Doctorow.  Anyway, the story covers the case of a home for crippled children (generally all injured from working with the big machines used in the various industries of  the story’s world).  The home’s supervisor is a rough man who takes advantage of his position. He takes all the food and donations meant for the children for himself, leaving the kids very little.

That is, until the day Monty Goldfarb arrives. Pretty soon the tale  turns gory. The supervisor is dead from a knife wound and the children set about creating an automaton, using parts from the recently deceased, to fool the rest of the world into believing that the children are not alone.

I found the tale enjoyable enough. Reading it, I felt a little like an emotionless observer, but I suppose it is tricky to draw a reader in with a small word count. Or, it may have been because there was a need for that kind of observing given the nature of the tale – which required using the deceased’s own face.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the story was constructed well and, again, the ending felt right.

“Seven Days Beset by Demons” by Shawn Cheng is a cute graphic story about a music box creator and seller. As he meets the  potential purchasers of his wares, he experiences the seven deadly sins. It’s a quick tale that gives a nice break in the  book. Quite cool.

“Hand in Glove” by Ysabeau S. Wilce is a rather neat mystery tale. The police department’s golden boy succeeds in capturing his suspect after a series of murder/thefts. But not everyone is happy. Constable Aurelia Etreyo is confident that the wrong man is due to hang because she believes in the evidence – including fingerprinting (a new, untrusted technique). We go through a series of clues  and meet some very interesting characters, which I won’t go into because it’d give the game away. So far, this one would probably be my favourite tale.

However, I am now reading “The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor”, by Delia Sherman, and it is rather good, so far.  (Never mind that I can’t pronounce one of the most used words).

Steampunk! — My Opinion…

Woo… I am about to share my opinion with you. It’s something I don’t do a lot of. When I do, this sort of thing happens, so I tend to keep quiet, since I’m no fan of confrontation (in real life, anyway).

Anyway, I picked up the book Steampunk!, an anthology edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant, as a replacement Christmas gift (my husband did really well: he decided to buy me a Discworld novel for Christmas and, after reading the backs of a few, picked the one he thought I’d most enjoy… he was right, I love “Going Postal”, but I also already own it… ah well, nice try).

I knew I wanted to include a little science in my fantasy novel, and my antagonist began turning into a bit of an inventor. When I learned of the existence of steampunk, I knew I had to learn more – I’m tinkering on the edges, why not dive in and tinker some more?  So, the second I saw this book on the shelf at the book store, I knew it was the one for me.

No, I haven’t finished it already (oh, to have that much time), but I thought I could comment on the stories as I go through.

The book opens with “Some Fortunate Future Day” written by Cassandra Clare. The first thing I will say is that if you are like me – you love the concept of Steampunk but have yet to be immersed in it enough to find your own inspiration along that path – this book, in general, is a good start. There are ideas galore, here. I usually read as a way of chilling before sleep, but this story (and the following) only served to fire up my brain. Sleep was a long time coming after this.

The first couple of paragraphs, after the Shakespeare sonnet, were about what I expected – a nice little opening passage that gave a little back story without overloading us readers (well, it has to, it’s a short story, afterall).

And then I was taken by surprise. The story changed to present-tense and, suddenly, I was no longer in the story. I don’t know why this is so, but it just seems to be the nature of present-tense – or, perhaps it is just me.

The story follows the daughter of a talented inventor after her town has been flattened in an airship attack and her father is most likely dead (she doesn’t know for sure). Her mother died several years earlier. She finds an injured airship pilot in her garden and sets about healing him, with the help of her mechanical doll assistants, in the belief that if she does so, he will fall madly in love with her. As the pilot learns about her world, so do we. She has a chef-robot, which now only makes soup, a gardening robot, and, of course, the robotic dolls. Her father also invented a time-travel device, which proves to be of some import to the tale.

On the whole, it’s a pleasant tale, and it opens the door into the Steampunk genre nicely – the possibilities are endless.

I have made a start on “The Last Ride of The Glory Girls” by Libba Bray, and am liking that in this case the genius tinkerer is a girl (so far, she doesn’t seem to be an inventor, but that’s OK). The language of the entire piece is written to reflect how the main character speaks and thinks. It is a little jolting at first, but you settle into it. I’m not sure of the exact influence of the language, perhaps lower-class, industrial London? e.g. “were” instead of “was” (“It were …” and “give” instead of “gave” (“He give me a choice …”). I find it interesting, since, in another setting, it could easily be the other way around – “was” when “were ” should have been used “We was just …” – which just happens to be the setting I have chosen for my own tale.

“Last Ride” is first-person past-tense. I’m more comfortable with that style, so it’s going down a bit of a treat. It has fewer crazy inventions than the first tale, so far, but that just goes to illustrate the scope of this genre (or, dare I say “sub-genre”, since I can see it being an extra label to attach to fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, etc tales … although, there is no doubt it could soon fill its own section of shelves in a store).

Anyway, so far, so good from me. If you have a passing interest in this genre, a collection of short tales such as this could be just what you need to develop a deeper understanding.