Taking a breather from talking about that book I published – *breathes* – to talk about a book I read!
Wikipedia defines “steampunk” as “a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century”. And while I’m not sure who’s in charge of the definition of a literary classic, I generally interpret it as “an old book that a lot of people have read and/or been made to read in the name of higher education, frequently held up by intellectual types as a paragon of the written word”.
Both steampunk and classics have been hit-or-miss with me, in the past, but when a friend o’ mine announced that she’d landed a spot in a new anthology mixing the twain, I was eager to give a chance.
Two words: Zero regrets.
More words: Read on…
Blurb: Amid a cacophony of cranking sprockets and cogs, in chuffs of steam and soot, comes the expansion of classic literature into alternative Steampunk masterpieces. Follow nine skilled authors as they lead old friends and new acquaintances through Jamaica, Singapore, Cape Town, Denmark, Paris, London, and Geneva on a phantasmagorical Steampunk World Tour.
Tropic of Cancer (Neve Talbot): Edward Rochester battles the elements and Bertha Mason to save his brother and his own soul.
Sense and Cyborgs (Anika Arrington): Privateer Margaret Dashwood makes port at Singapore to get her husband back on his feet.
Micawber and Copperfield (David W. Wilkin): Wilkins Micawber and David Copperfield create a legacy of loyalty in the Royal Dirigible Corps.
Little Boiler Girl (Scott William Taylor): Power has a price, and one city unwittingly demands an enslaved child pay it.
The Clockwork Ballet (M.K. Wiseman): At the Palais Garnier, the Phantom trips the light fantastic with Meg Giry, the prima ballerina of his mechanical troupe.
His Frozen Heart (Aaron and Belinda Sikes): Jacob Marley saves Ebenezer Scrooge from robbing his wife’s grave and selling his soul.
Our Man Fred (A.F. Stewart): Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, and his fiancé, Mary, protect the Empire from mechanized malfeasance.
Lavenza, or the Modern Galatea (Alyson Grauer*): Victor Frankenstein’s bride discovers more than his horrific experiments on her wedding day.
My Thoughts: Tied to classics but never bound by them, this collection captivated me from page one. More than simply slapping on some gears and shrouding it in steam, the assembly of authors have done a fine job of making the story worlds and characters of the likes of Charles Dickens and Mary Shelley their own.
While familiarity with the old literature that inspired these works isn’t necessary to enjoy the anthology, for the re-imaginings related to stories I already knew and loved in one form or another, looking for connections and creative deviations was half the fun. I likewise appreciated that the tales didn’t get too bogged down with long, intricate descriptions of mechanical devices, leaving me free to get lost in the story instead of tangled up in wires.
HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Whether you’re already a fan of steampunk or looking for a book to introduce you to the genre, I’ll recommend “Mechanized Masterpieces” every time.