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was sold to gypsies as a small child for half a tank of gas and a kitten. She was quickly, if not easily, retrieved by her mother after the kitten was revealed to be an Eldrich horror looking for a ride into the nearest metropolitan area to begin wreaking havoc. It's been a bone of contention between Maria and her family ever since, whether the Horror-kitten would've been more or less trouble than she grew up to be.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Book Review: Steampunk!

This cover is even more impressive in person.
From Goodreads:

In the first major YA steampunk anthology, fourteen top storytellers push the genre's mix of sci-fi, fantasy, history, and adventure in fascinating new directions.

Imagine an alternate universe where romance and technology reign. Where tinkerers and dreamers craft and re-craft a world of automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never were. Where scientists and schoolgirls, fair folk and Romans, intergalactic bandits, utopian revolutionaries, and intrepid orphans solve crimes, escape from monstrous predicaments, consult oracles, and hover over volcanoes in steam-powered airships. Here, fourteen masters of speculative fiction, including two graphic storytellers, embrace the genre's established themes and refashion them in surprising ways and settings as diverse as Appalachia, ancient Rome, future Australia, and alternate California. Visionaries Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant have invited all-new explorations and expansions, taking a genre already rich, strange, and inventive in the extreme and challenging contributors to remake it from the ground up. The result is an anthology that defies its genre even as it defines it.
I picked this baby up at the Baltimore Book Festival last September, during Libba Bray's book signing. I'm still fairly new to Steampunk as a genre and in some cases a lifestyle. However, it's an area that I've been finding increasingly comfortable, and when I saw this anthology, with so many authors I already love, I jumped on it. If you doubt the awesomeness, check out this list of authors who are in here:

M. T. Anderson
Elizabeth Knox
Ysabeau S. Wilce
Delia Sherman
Christopher Rowe
Garth Nix
Kathleen Jennings
Dylan Horrocks
Cory Doctorow
Cassandra Clare
Libba Bray
Holly Black
Shawn Cheng
Kelly Link

Lookit that list. Isn't it a nice list? That is one fine list.

The Good:

This is one of the best anthologies I have ever read. Out of 14 stories, almost every one is in the 4-to-5-star range. The big name authors don't disappoint. Libba Bray, Cory Doctorow, and M. T. Anderson probably have my favorite stories. However, some of the lesser know authors have their shining moments too, like Delia Sherman, Kathleen Jennings, and Elizabeth Knox. I won't say that everyone brought their A-game, but I never felt like anyone was coasting, happy to settle for a passing grade.

While I've been developing a growing love affair with steampunk lit, I love that this anthology is filled with authors who haven't written in this genre before. Or if they have, it hasn't been their first choice. Where so many steampunk writers seem to think of the world before the story, these are simply authors who have taken on the concept of steampunk - however they interpret that - and used it to accent a plot or a character. And for that, I feel that the impact and depth of the world is so much more potent, giving steampunk an emotional resonance that the casual steampunk reader may overlook.

The Bad:

The flaw of all anthologies applies here; simply, not all stories are created equal. Though they are few, a few of the stories just felt out of place with the rest of the collection. I won't name names, as I think some of them are still fine stories if not exactly right, but I think readers will be able to spot the odd man/men out.

The Rest:

The stories rise and fall in merit based largely on personal preference. I'm certain that a few will stand out to everyone, the rest will probably find their rating in the tastes of the readers and their vision of steampunk.

The vision of steampunk is a big part of what this collection captures. The stereotypical steampunk story is set in Victorian London and features women in corsets and men with fabulous coats and secret agendas. This is a very fun stereotype in the hands of the right writer. But the stories in this collection go well beyond the known and accepted boundaries of the genre, taking it from Ancient Rome to Australia and Appalachia and the future. I'm not going to say that Steampunk! breaks any new ground. However, it introduces young adult readers to a genre they may think only applies to nineteenth century England and shows them that it can be anywhere through the writing of authors they already know, love, and trust.

Final Thoughts:

I think fans of steampunk and readers who are new to the genre will find this a fantastic collection. I like to think of it as a gateway drug to the world of steampunk. It certainly helped me find my feet and dive in.
My Rating: 5/5 Mushrooms

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