The Steampunk Empire

The Crossroads of the Aether

Tell me about what you're reading, so long as it's steampunk, neo-vic, or even proto-steampunk like Verne and Wells.

I'm currently chewing my way through Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, which is not only a great Young Adult novel, but is great fun as well. The artwork by Keith Thompson makes a stunning companion to the text, which matches wonderful pacing with strong (albeit somewhat typical) YA style protagonists - a girl masquerading as a boy in the British Air Navy, and the renegade son of the recently assassinated Franz Ferdinand. On one side, we have the biologically altered Hydrogen Breathers (imagine a genetically altered balleen whale) of the Darwinist powers (Britain, France, and Russia) and on the other, the "Klankers" of Germany and Austria, with their metal machines and airships. I've been listening to the audiobook this past week, and just got my hard copy in the mail. Allan C****** (Nightcrawler in the X-Men films) narrates the story beautifully. Highly recommended for those looking for some steampunk that won't make you think too hard.

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I just finished the Difference Engine. I am not sure I understood it.

I understand that my copy of Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter comes in next week, and I find the illustrations in Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters to have quite a Vernian flavour.

So good to know I'm not alone in not quite getting that one. Read it back when it came out and Steampunk wasn't even a glimmer in anybody's eye yet. (well, maybe but they weren't telling) I had just read the whole Neuromancer series by Gibson and was into Cyberpunk so that was a total 180 that left me a bit dazed. Have to re-read it but can't find it when I'm in a used shop and don't want to pay full price in a regular bookshop. I'll get it again soon enough. oh well. 


What didn't you understand about the Difference Engine? It's definitely one of the more complex pieces of steampunk, so don't feel bad - you certainly wouldn't be alone in getting to the end and saying, "huh?"
I got the plot. Just the stylistic turns towards the end. The thing about the Eye (which seemed to come out of nowhere) and the odd poetics.
It's a dystopic vision of the future. It's like the novel hits fast-forward, until we see the ultimate end of the society the Difference Engine has created. Typical Gibson, but everyone is plugged into the great all-seeing, all-knowing Engine, which seems to have become self-aware.
I kinda got that. I just didn't like how the Eye just suddenly popped in seemingly without context.
Please excuse me joining in, but I think I may be able to shed some light.

On my second reading of the book, after having read one or two accounts of the plot (which I had entirely forgotten after my first reading of it!), I understood the final section. I think.

The data cards that are mentioned throughout are a forerunner of an artificial intelligence to run on Babbage computers. This is never explicitly mentioned in the book, but is in fact why the cards are so valuable and why they corrupted the French engine 'Napolean' so that it no longer runs as it did.

In the final section (if memory serves, some time in the 1980s) the cityscape described is revealed to be the inner workings of a delicate and vast Babbage engine. You are to be forgiven if you missed this however as it is a subtle point.
The poetic tone is, I believe, used to describe something non-human and beyond our scope - the awakening within the engine of a self-aware mind.
I've heard the argument made that the end of Difference Engine pays an indirect homage to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe...with the seemingly illogical fact of 42 being the meaning of life and that everone looks to the "Engines" in both works to have the answers, and when they get it, they don't understand it...definitely more Gibson than Sterling...the latter tends to tie up loose strings, while the former seems to have a penchant for hanging a few out there to keep you guessing...
I love The Difference Engine, it is my favorite steampunk novel. Nonetheless, the ending falls a bit flat for me. Oh well!

I've just started Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. It has steampunk and zombies. Yippie!
I just got Boneshaker is the same shipment as Leviathan Christian - I'm looking forward to reading it. Trying to cram it all in before I present at Steam Con. I find it sounds good when you're talking about a type of literature if you'd read the most recent stuff. Staying up to date, I guess.
Such a coincidence! I just got Boneshaker and Leviathan, too. I started on Boneshaker today. It's far too early to review it, but I'm certainly intrigued so far.
well... finally, after 40 years in this life... I've sat down to 20000 leagues under the sea. just recently finished the first part (I only get to read currently on my lunch and breaks at work so it's slow going)


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