Thursday, November 10, 2011

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories edited by Gavin J. Grant


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. Here, fourteen masters of speculative fiction, including two graphic storytellers, embrace the steampunk genre's established themes and refashion them in surprising ways and settings as diverse as Appalachia, Ancient Rome, future Australia, and alternate California. The result is an anthology that defies its genre even as it defines it.

I was drawn to this anthology by the array of authors listed, not just writers but graphic storytellers too. The first of these is by Shawn Cheng and is called Seven Days Beset by Demons. It follows our young nameless hero who makes clockwork musical toys. One catches the eye of a girl who he immediately falls for. The next seven days sees him experiencing the seven deadly sins as he hopes to catch her heart. I found it both touching and heartbreaking.

Cassandra Clare's story (Some Fortunate Future Day) also caught my eye. It tells the tale of Rose, stuck alone in her house. Her father has gone to war and her only companions are the automaton gardener and cook plus two talking dolls. The dolls, Ellen and Cordelia, have different characters and as the story progresses it appears that they have feelings too. Trust me, there's nothing more creepy than dolls who spy on you and whisper horrible things in your ears. Rose's solitary life comes to an end when an injured soldier called Jonah makes his way to the house. Rose and the dolls take him in, tend to his wounds and as he recovers Rose plans her future. The story's so bittersweet - I both loved it and felt a feeling of dread as I read on. Rose gets carried away and I found myself wondering whether the dolls had more heart and empathy than the only human in the piece.

I also want to mention Everything Amiable and Obliging by Holly Black. The setting is Victorian London and the story follows Sofia, an orphaned heiress living with her aunt in a luxurious setting. The house she lives in doesn't just contain automatons but is integrated with them; tables turn into parlour maids, the family is watched by the house allowing the butler to pre-empt their requirements. I felt as wary as Sophia as we discover the reason for her mistrust of automatons. The story is about acceptance, forbidden love and courtship - both thought provoking and enjoyable.

I know I'll keep saying this all month but I want to come back to this anthology too.


Vivienne said...

I turned this one down as I really struggle with Steampunk. I had such a bad experience with the one I read, but then it did have zombies in it and everyone know I don't do zombies!

Jenni (Juniper's Jungle) said...

This sounds so good, the names listed on the cover all grab my attention and the stories you describe all sound so good. I like the idea of some graphic stories being included too.

Ailsa said...

Some of those stories sound pretty creepy! I've noticed this book recently, and it sounds quite interesting - there are a lot of authors I've heard of in this one book. I might get it sometime, but I"m still on a book buying ban, and I'm still not entirely convinced about short stories.


Tiffany said...

Ooh, I like that UK cover! It's a truly lovely antho, too. Love YS Wilce's story!

And hey, don't forget about Corsets and Clockwork--that's another YA steampunk antho that deserves some love. :) (/shameless self-promotion :))