Review: Steampunk!

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Steampunk!Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories by Gavin J. Grant, Kelly Link
Published by Candlewick on October 11, 2011
Genres: Anthologies, Fantasy, Short Stories, Steampunk
Pages: 422
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Fourteen masters of speculative fiction, including two graphic storytellers, from Appalachia, ancient Rome, future Australia, and alternate California, create alternate universes 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.

Steampunk is a fun genre, one I have begun to explore with excitement. While I have not loved all of the steampunk novels I have read to this point, I have uniformly enjoyed the idea behind them, the out-of-place mechanization accepted as normal in an otherwise old-fashioned society. What attracts me most to this, I expect, is the similarity between steampunk and magical realism, the only difference being that the magic lies in the technology.

With such thoughts in mind, I was eager to read this anthology, particularly considering that some authors I already enjoy contributed stories, such as M. T. Anderson, Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray and Cory Doctorow. In fact, these authors cap the anthology. It begins with the stories by the three I listed last and ends with M. T. Anderson’s tale.

Despite what should have been a strong beginning, I found the start of the anthology utterly tedious. I did actually Clare’s, Bray’s and Doctorow’s stories, but none of them blew me away. Then, the next four stories I found to be completely awful, the anthology not picking up in quality again until Kelly Link’s story, which, while interesting, really did not seem like steampunk so much as science fiction or fantasy, depending upon where the summer people came from.

The latter half of the anthology, though, was totally satisfactory. I enjoyed all of the stories but the graphic novel Finishing School. Speaking of the comics included (Finishing School and Seven Days Beset by Demons), why were they so awful? I love that comics were included and applaud the blending of formats, but really think they could have found something better. Seven Days Beset by Demons was by far the worst story in the anthology, for it lacked plot, carried a heavy-handed religious bent and did not particularly smack of steampunk. Epic fail.

The best stories, in my opinion, were “Steam Girl” by Dylan Horrocks, “Everything Amiable and Obliging” by Holly Black, and “The Oracle Engine” by M. T. Anderson, the final three stories in the anthology. I must admit I am a bit biased against most of the others, because I quickly tired of reading the poor grammar of western characters, who say things like “I done seen them people.” No thanks.

If you hate that all steampunk takes place in Victorian England and want to see where else it can be set, then you’ll enjoy this wide range of interpretations (although personally, I found the ones in a modern setting a bit odd). Be prepared to slog through a couple of long stories that you might not be especially interested in. Or just skip those and move on.


One response to “Review: Steampunk!”

  1. Nori says:

    I need to read this! Also, I kind of love Andrew Bird.

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