steampunk


The first book in a steampunk series.

Publication year: 2004
Format: print
Publisher: HarperCollins
Page count: 322

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy aboard the luxury airship Aurora which travels from Lionsgate City, US, to Australia. He loves his job and dreams of being a sailmaker, like is father was. His father worked aboard the Aurora before he died in an accident. Matt is restless on the ground; only aboard an airship can he feel truly alive and also close to his father.

One night, he sees a balloonist nearby. He doesn’t answer any hails, so Matt volunteers for a daring rescue hundreds of miles up in the air. The old balloonist is in a really bad shape but right before he dies, he manages to tell Matt about beautiful creatures in the air. Matt hasn’t seen such things and thinks the balloonist is raving.

A year later, young lady Kate de Vries comes on board the Aurora. She happens to be the old balloonist’s granddaughter and she’s determined to prove that the strange air creatures are real. Matt likes her and he wants to help her. But then the air pirates raid the Aurora.

When I got this book, I didn’t realize it was YA. Matt and Kate are both quite young, even though not children anymore. The nice side effect is that the book has very minimal courtship romance elements.

The captain has promised Matt that he’ll be made a junior sailmaker when an opening comes. However, when a position opens up, it’s goes to another: the son of one of the owners of the air ship line. Matt is bitter but continues his work. He doesn’t really like the passengers because his dream is to work on Aurora and someday, maybe, command it. The passengers aren’t interested in the ship and just want a smooth ride which should be as short as possible.

However, Kate is inquisitive and curious. She wants to know about the ship and that really wins Matt over. Of course, Matt is poor, and Kate is rich, so they both know that nothing can come of their relationship. Also, Matt starts to get jealous of Kate pretty soon. Kate’s chaperone Miss Simpkins is a hilarious figure: she’s dramatic and commanding but also likes to sleep quite a lot. However, Kate is very determined to get what she wants and somewhat spoiled, too.

The story focuses on exploration and adventure which are both things I like quite a lot. It’s quite straight-forward story with a little bit of commentary on the women’s station (especially young women) and the divides between the wealthy and the poor. But mostly adventure.

It doesn’t end in a cliffhanger.

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The first book in the steampunk/science fiction series Peridot Shift. I got an ARC from the publisher.

Publication year: 2018, in March
Format: ebook, Kindle
Publisher: Parvus Press
Page count: 535 on Goodreads

Talis is the captain of Wind Saber, a small airship with a total crew of four people. To keep her vessel in the air, Talis is sometimes forced to take jobs which are borderline legal, or outright illegal. Like the one that starts the story. One of the few fences Talis trusts offered her a job that looked easy enough. An old ring needed to be retrieved from the wreckage of an airship. Talis agreed to the job even though the payment barely covers for the cost of the equipment needed for diving the wreck. However, she thinks that she can do similar jobs in the future, so the cost is really an investment. Her crew agreed. The only problem is that anything found from wrecks are the property of the Cutter Empire, so they’ll have to be fast and silent.

Unfortunately, only moments after Talis gets the ring, an Imperial warship appears, and its captain is none other than Hankirk with whom Talis had a fling years ago when they were both in the Imperial Academy, and now they loath each other. After a battle, which will no doubt put Wind Sabre on the Imperial most wanted list, the Wind Sabre manages to escape. But when Talis tries to bring the ring to the fence, she and her crew are attacked and later they find the fence murdered. Talis has no idea what’s going on, but she needs to get rid of the ring and with a price that will cover some of her losses.

This was a very enjoyable read. The world-building is good and very interesting. The planet Peridot was destroyed in the past and only the powers of the five gods, the Divine Alchemists, kept the world together as islands of floating lands. The Divine Alchemists recreated the plants, animals, and everything and created five races, each in the image of one of the alchemists. Two of them look pretty much human while the rest are somewhat different. The world has also aliens which use starships to come from different planets. The people of Peridot don’t really know much about them.

In addition to two lift balloons and maneuvering and stunsails, the airships have steam engines, too, to propel them across the skies and between different islands. The planet has been divided into five areas, one for each race. There’s the Cutter Empire and the Bone islands are ruled by a sort of tribal council.

The crew of Wind Saber includes Dug who is a fearsome warrior, the first mate, and Talis’ best friend, Sophie who is the wrench, or mechanic, and Tisker who is the pilot and a former street urchin. They’re quite a close-knit group. They each have their own pasts and personalities. Talis is the only point-of-view character so we naturally get to know her the best. She seems like an experienced captain, very protective of her crew (especially Dug) but not so great at long-time planning. She also has a dry sense of humor. All of the crew are able to defend themselves and can kill people when necessary. I also really enjoyed the deep friendship between Dug and Talis: they’re friends through thick and thin but not lovers.

Besides Talis and Sophie the book has several interesting female characters. But for me the aliens almost steal the show. We get to know a bit more about them, but I’d love to know more. For example, they use pronouns not to identify gender but class, and they have over fifty pronouns. Also, the story doesn’t include romance which I really appreciated because courtship romances are so very common that’s noteworthy to find a book without one.

I’m eagerly waiting for the next book and really hoping that it will be just as good.

A stand-alone alternate history steampunk clearly inspired by the Shakespeare play in the title.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook
Publisher: Xchyler Publising

A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk is pretty much what the title says: A Midsummer Night’s Dream recast in Steampunk. The story begins with a group of mechanics; men who have lost body parts in wars and those parts have been replaced with mechanical parts. Even though they now serve their country and fellow citizens very diligently, they are shunned by all other people. Our six heroic mechanics have decided to perform a play to the Queen in honor of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Sadly, some of the mechanics require repairs before the Queen can fully enjoy “Pyramus and Thisbe” and they don’t want to return to the malicious care of the man who built them: Doctor Oberon Malieux. So, they head up to the Queen’s Artificer, Pauline Spiegel. The mechanics, Pauline, and her friends becomes embroiled with a plot to overthrow Britain.

Of course the retelling needs two pairs of star crossed lovers. They are Pauline Spiegel, a humble artificer, and her intended, Alexander MacIntyre who is a lowly clerk in the British Royal Household and Pauline’s friend Clemmie Hozier and her intended, certain young Lieutenant with the name of Winston Churchill. However, Pauline’s and Winston’s mothers were best friends and promised that their kids would be married to each other and to Winston duty becomes before love. Clemmie isn’t thrilled and Pauline is adamant that she wants Alex.

The villain of the story is Oberon Malieux, a brilliant doctor who has built the mechanized men from wounded soldiers from the Zulu War. However, lately has also built mechs from the criminally insane and uses them as his private army. He want power and wealth for himself and doesn’t care whom he hurts in the process. He also requires the expertize of his estranged wife, Lakshmi Malieux, who is an expert in eye surgery and has created small, insect like mechanoids. But she doesn’t want to help him; in fact she wants to stop him.

The book has lots of steampunk elements and very clever use of mechanical objects and people. It’s set in a Britain which is on the brink of war but that doesn’t darken the mood of the story. It uses quite a lot of real historical people with twists. The political scene is also somewhat different from the real politics around that time. I greatly enjoyed them and the characters, too.

The story is fast-paced, almost breathlessly fast and great, light-hearted fun. It also has lots of references to various Shakespeare plays.