The Steampunk Empire

The Crossroads of the Aether

i'm not sure i have a favorite but i am currently enjoying Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.

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I'll be interested to hear what you thought of Starclimber when you're finished. I found it the weakest in the series, but still entertaining. You should try the audiobooks sometime - they were done with a full cast, and make for a great listen.
This isn't really steampunk, but it is Victoriana; I'm a huge fan of H. Rider Haggard's Quatermain novels. Certainly these books are a product of the colonial mind (although Haggard is more progressive in his view of African society than most of his day), but many of these books are terrific. Haggard has a wonderful eye for landscape and his action sequences are swift and powerful.

Yes! She, Ayesha, etc etc.

 

They were so powerful that people were actually organizing expeditions to visit the fictional lands he wrote about.
Fitzpatrick's War was my first steampunk read, before I'd decided to do my research on it. I agree about the deep impression - it's a very compelling book, with the theme of family as a central idea. I've lamented lacking the time to go back and give it a second read.

 

 Johannes Cabal Necromancer

& Johannes Cabal Detective, not strictly SP but funny and well written with SP elements.

 

http://www.johannescabal.com/necromancerflash.html

 

http://www.johannescabal.com/detectiveflash.html

I found "Clockwork Angel" by Cassandra Clare quite, quite enjoyable.
I liked Boneshaker but I think Dreadnaught (also by Cherie Priest) is a better read. I'm currently re-reading Affinity Bridge by George Mann. Almost done with it, then on to Moorlock Night by Jeter. BUT my favorite, so far, is Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris ("the fate of the British Empire rests in the hands of an alluring renegade...and a librarian"). It's a fun read with plenty of action, infernal devices, Agents Eliza D. Braun and Wellington Books ("I'm not a librarian, I'm an Archivist!").
I've only read 4 steampunk-or steam-ish - books, the best two have been the Johannes Cabal books that people have already mentioned which I also HIGHLY recommend:

Johannes Cabal: Necromancer
Johannes Cabal: Detective

I've read:

"Whitechapel Gods" by SM Peters, which is seriously dark and really imaginative. In Victorian London, the section of Whitechapel has been sealed off and is occupied by mechanical 'gods', their enforcers the violent Boiler men and the humans who try to revolt against this brutal society within a society. Alas, the story has problems; the female character is unlikeable and not admirable and the end is somewhat abrupt. It's like after reading such a terrible and dark and not really 'happy' story, the writer tried for something uplifting at the end. It doesn't work, IMO.  But other than that, it's a taut read about an 'underground' working against the oppressive and violent rule of these 'gods' who have their own longterm plans.

The artwork to the paperback for this book is supercool though.

Then I read a Young Adult book sort of to wash my palate of the bleak darkness of the other novel. I read "Clockwork Heart" by Dru Pagliassotti. It's a sweet story of a mechanical, metal-winged courier who gets involved with an assasination and its implications in her steampunk planet society. Like someone else mentioned, though there are culture classes in this society and obviously problems that come with crossing class lines, this young Adult Book only points them out but doesn't linger on them and try to make a morality story or social upheaval rebel of the heroine. She and her cohorts only live there and work within their world. Very sweet and light and enjoyable.

The paperback cover artwork is also very steampunk.

On the non-fiction Steampunk front, I respectfully call your attention to "The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide To The World Of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, And Strange Literature"  by Jeff Vandermeer with S.J. Chambers. It's a nice overview of the history of the Steampunk world, from makers to film, TV (Wild wild West anyone) to literature, from Wells & Verne to Priest, Carriger, Blaylock, Jeter, Powers, et al. Well illustrated and well written. Recommended if you haven't already seen it.

   Respectfully, Justin Kace, Gentleman Adventurer

Two new Steampunk novels on the market. Found'em (actually they found me) at Barnes & Nobles. They are "The Age of Steam: Dead Iron" by Devon Monk. It's a weird western featuring a lycanthropic hero, witches, evil beings , infernal devices ("matics"- steam machines) and, so far, a pretty good story. The second is "The Society of Steam-Book One: The Falling Machine" by Andrew P. Meyer. This one is set in the New York area in1880 and features The Paragons, a group of steam-powered "super" heros and, of course corresponding villians. Again, so far, a pretty well written book (yes, I'm reading the simultaneously). Just thought I'd mention them. Both seem to be the type of books that can grip and hold your attention. Of course, you'll probably want to read them one at a time though.

Oh I love this post, I am always looking for something new to read [steampunk or other] :)

I'm a recent steampunk reader, just began getting into them last year really, but I've been a fan for ages. Here's some of the things I've read that I believe fall into the catagory:

 

Boneshaker & Dreadnaught by Cherie Priest. Boneshaker was the first steampunk book that I read, and it took me some time to get into it. It wasn't until I was at least halfway through that I really hit my stride and was able to become absorbed by the story, for as much as I liked Briar Wilkes. By the end I liked it but I definitely enjoyed Dreadnaught a lot more. The small inclusion of previous characters is something I always enjoy, and for all its inaccuracies I did like the Civil War setting.

 

The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. I absolutely adore these books. Alexia is such a sassy, intelligent lady, strong-willed and yet there's a hidden  vulnerability to her that makes her endearing. The entire cast of characters are well-thought out and I really love the humor that's peppered throughout.  I'm a bit sad the next one [Timeless] will be the last we see of Lady Maccon but I am looking forward to Carriger's new series that will be coming out. A finishing school on a dirigible up to its garters in espionage? Count me in!

 

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. So glad this was mentioned previously even though I have no shame over my love for YA reading. I love Clare's City of... series so it was natural for me to pick this one up and it's good. I'm very much looking forward to Clockwork Prince coming out in December. Part of my enjoyment comes from seeing similarities between characters in CA who are obviously the descendants of those from the City of... books.

 

The Iron Thorn (The Iron Codex) by Caitlin Kittredge. This was a slow starter for me but eventually I grew to really like it, until I hit the cliffhanger end, and then I got mad. I want to know what happens next dammit! The author is a major H.P. Lovecraft aficionado which is as plain as day considering the location in which the story takes place is called Lovecraft. The plot is a little confusing at times, like there's a bit too much being explained or happening. A revelation made by one of the characters towards the end makes things interesting and was pleasantly unexpected [to me at least]. I liked it enough to want to know what happens next so I consider that a good sign.

 

The Girl In The Steel Corset by Kady Cross. I thought this was fantastic, though I have to say I found the twist behind the elusive Machinist's identity a little predictable. It wasn't too difficult for me to figure it out and normally those kinds of things tend to go over my head. But the story is otherwise solid and the characters are likable. I also enjoyed the not-so-subtle nods to Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

 

Currently I'm reading Whitechapel Gods by S.M. Peters, which I like but are having a difficult time getting through. I just haven't hit that stride yet. The opposite can be said for The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook, which I can't seem to put down. I'm also chipping away at a collection of short steampunk stories, slowly but surely.

    On p.6 of this thread, in a comment to Prof. Wetware's critique of Cherie Priest's Dreadnaught dated 5/15/11, I said I would write up a thorough review of Boneshaker.  Written from the viewpoint of someone who is close to being an expert on the Pacific Northwest. 

    I am a 5th generation Seattleite.  My great-grandparents provided timber to help rebuild the city after the terrible fire of 1889.  I was raised with a decided appreciation of the local culture and history-- which means knowing about the many characters who have lived in this wild, wide-open port city. Also recognition of how the geology is such a determining factor; a subduction zone that causes earthquakes and huge volcanoes.  Plus familiarity with sea life, and the dominant tree species along what plants are edible or can be used as medicines.

    I do Northwest Indian art woodcarving, which requires some understanding of the culture and history of First Peoples.  Another fixture on Puget Sound is the state ferry fleet.  Successors to the old steam-engined "mosquito fleet," so named because it was a ubiquitous swarm.  I worked in the engine rooms of the ferries and am a volunteer crew member on the Virgina V, with its 1902 triple-expansion steam engine.  It is the lone survivor of the mosquito fleet.  I have a botany degree (minor in forest ecology) from the University of Washington.

  

    So I was looking foward to reading Boneshaker, since it is set in Seattle.  Supposedly, it deals with some of the local lore.  And it had some good reviews.  The first hint of trouble was the afterwords where she informs us simple minded backwater natives that she realizes the Smith Tower and King Street station were built later than her chronology has it.  She informs us that that SteamPunk is, after all, about alt. history.  Well, duh.  We know that.  What we object to is that the different timeline serves no other purpose than to tie into the next book.  There is no compelling reason or internal plot consistancy which demands the changes.

    Many of the plot elements don't hold together.  Nor are they resolved well, if at all.   Few of the characters are fleshed out convincingly.  Okay for the rotters (zombies,) but not so much for people I'd like to care about.  Many of the similies she invents are just plain clinkers.  Eg: a chandelier with pieces hanging like "crystal puppets."  Great words, no real meaning.  Sure, there are the requisite SP goggles, zeppelin, plucky heroine, mad scientist, but so what?  For a book that, in contrast, actually has a terrific plotline, intriguing characters, and ancient Egyptian esotericism-- plus it's very well-written, read The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers.  It's considered one of the foundations of the SteamPunk canon.

 

    The writing in Boneshaker is bad enough, but the most appalling aspect for us native Seattleites is the author's apparent lack of any real knowledge about this area.  And apparent disdain for readers such that doing even a little research isn't worth the effort.  Goes to show that living here does not confer any real depth. 

    For example, the repeated references that characters make to "the ocean."  Seattle is on Puget Sound.  A 100 mile long fjord and estuary; at its deepest 900 feet, most of it about 300 feet deep.  With some weird critters down there--  huge octopuses and rare 6-gill sharks.  Anyway, the actual ocean is about 140 miles from Seattle.  Do East Coast people say Chesapeake ocean or Long Island ocean?

    Another piece of evidence.  The "old oak" in the yard of the lavender house.  Oaks aren't native to Seattle.  (The Garry oaks of Sequim and Ft. Lewis are relicts.)  An oak would have to be planted-- and would not do well in the summers.  Plus even in the altered timeline, Seattle was a young city.  Thus no time to produce an old oak.  Why not use a Douglas fir? or better yet, a western red cedar?   Cedars are also the main tree used by local Indian cultures for canoes, clothing, ceremorial carvings, longhouses, and basketry.  Its scientific name is Thuja plicata-- thujone is the chemical also in wormwood.  Any good SteamPunk should know that's the heart of absinthe.

    The book has no acknowledgement of a unique NW culture nor that of the 1st Peoples.  One character remarks that he's not sure what kind of Indian (the character) Angeline is.  I know!  So would any early resident. That's the name of Chief Seattle's daughter.  He was Duwamish and Suquamish.  One tribe, the Duwamish, along the river named for them that empties into Seattle's Elliot Bay,  The other directly across Puget Sound; the little town of Suquamish where Chief Seattle is buried.  BTW, they're still there and they have a great tribal museum.  There are other related Salish-speaking tribes, but they are some distance away.

    Nor is there a real feel for the influence of geography.  Yes, Mt. Rainier is mentioned.  But it's not that close-- 56 miles southeast of Seattle.  Hills, rivers, and lots of huges trees are in the way.  Plus glacial till from the last ice age.  One character in the book says that someone said it was a volcano.  The implication is that this was not known then.  It was.  The old surveys like Lewis and Clark or the earlier voyages of exploration mention the volcanoes of this area.  From information given by Indians, a geologist determined in1890 that Glacier Peak, which is hidden in the Cascade range, is also a volcano. It's not a separate cone like Rainier, Baker, St. Helens, Adams or Hood, (BTW-- the outflow and vapor of Rainier and St. Helens do not go in the direction of Seattle.) 

    An interesting fact, not difficult to find out, would have made a better plot device than asserting totally unlikely subterranean gasses from Mt. Rainier.  After the 1980 eruption of St. Helens, lakes formed that had odd coloration due to the bacteria them.  Several researchers studying these and other subjects like renewed plant growth or the on-going vocanic activity came down with a new type of flu which, its seems, emerged from something in the lakes.

    No mention in the book either, of the complex and checkered labor history of an emerging port city.  Some quite radical-- like the loggers who supported the Wobblies (IWW)  Or the strikes by coal miners near Lake Washington.  Some regrettable-- like the anti-Chiese riots.  Which were like contemporary events; whites feared that corporations would hire low paid immigrants to drive down wages.  Yes, there are Chinese characters in the book.  But for what reason?

    I've got more, but you get the point.  If the real stuff, which gives our environment its colors: red and green, if you know what I mean...is so easy to ignore, then why use the city at all?        

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