The Cover Made Me Read It: Dogwood Sprocket by Bokerah Brumley

It’s been a while since I’ve read steampunk. The historical aspect of the genre usually keeps me away. But when I saw Dogwood Sprocket’s pretty cover, I couldn’t say no.

The Story I Ended Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

Just look at the shiny silvery stuff. Just look at that top hat.

The Plot:

It’s the year 2287, and Grace York makes a living hand-crafting clever mechanical collectibles in an age of fast flying cars and soaring skyscrapers. Her life is interrupted when she is sucked through a mysterious portal created by Hugh Hawthorne, a clever inventor from a different time and a different, parallel universe. As Grace tries to adjust to the new, mechanical, steam-powered world, she finds herself falling for Hugh, a man who might be lying about whether he can get Grace home again.

Impressions:

Some stories make me angry. Some make me want to call all my friends to rave in delight. And some – the hardest to talk about – land somewhere in the lukewarm middle. This is that kind of story. Dogwood Sprocket is like curling up with a mug of tea on a comfy. It’s pleasant, cozy and sweet. It doesn’t thrill, but neither does it disappoint. It’s nice.

It’s a neat mix of time travel and romance. The first sparkle of romantic connection is instantaneous when the characters meet, but Grace and Hugh slowly and tentatively build their rapport over the full course of the story.

Luckily for Grace, her futurist career as a toy-maker and artisan is probably the only job whose skills transferred perfectly and immediately to a steampunk world. Grace’s independence is a lovely foil for Hugh’s cautious courtship as they navigate tricky issues like Victorian Era dress codes, a formal outing, how to get Grace home again…and what to do once she gets there.

Oh, and there’s a cute cat.

All and all, the short story is a nicely-crafted ode to the steampunk genre.

Canary verdict:

(A pleasant read.)

I received a free copy of the story for review.

More steampunk? Check out the following:

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[Advanced Book Review] Pantomime by Laura Lam

Pantomime by Laura Lam

Publication date: Feb 5 2013

I can’t even talk about this book. Every time I try to write this review, I immediately go into fits of sputtering rage. The whole story hinges on a single twist, one that, if revealed, ruins the gut punch of the book. But the twist is also what makes the such an unexpected and utter joy to read. I have never read a hero like that presented in Pantomime. And it’s left me positively aching for more.

This is where I would talk about the book, but I pretty much can’t. No plot, no characters, nothing. I’ve never been so utterly vexed by a review before. I’ve also never felt so compelled to not talk about a twist in a story before, because I can’t stand the idea of ruining it for even one person. (Except Canary the First, who never gets the privilege of spoiler warnings.) So I’m just going to drop the official blurb in here so that I don’t slip up and reveal anything myself: Continue reading

Advance Book Review: Dead Reckoning, a steampunk zombie western

Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

Publication Date: June 05, 2012

What do you get when you mix a western, a zombie infestation, and a dash of steampunk? A whole lot of YA fun.

Jett Gallatin is a sharpshooter and gambler traveling across the wild west–he is also a lie, a name made up and used by a young woman searching for a brother who disappeared at the end of the Civil War. White Fox is an army scout, investigating the reason why thriving towns are becoming ghost towns overnight, all their people disappeared without a trace. And Honoria Gibbons is an unconventional young woman riding a gears-and-steam machine across the prairie, out to prove that science can explain any phenomena.

But when a zombie horde marches across their paths and force them to band together to survive, even Jett’s tenacity, White Fox’s experience, and Gibbons’ mythbuster approach to life might not be enough to get them through the night. Continue reading

[Book Review] Steampunk!

Steampunk Girl by Zoe Stead

One of my reading resolutions this year was to branch out into unfamiliar territory, so I decided it was high time I checked out that steampunk thing all the kids are talking about these days. Steampunk, in case the only thing that comes to mind when you hear that term is clunky brass aviator goggles, is a subgenre of fantasy that celebrates unconventional inventors and their gadgets, and is usually set in the not-too-distant-past. Robots and flying machines are staples, and the most common setting is Victorian London, a flavor which permeates the story’s sense of fashion, art, and culture.

The name of the subgenre, for instance, comes from the idea that much of technology was still powered via steam. The result is something that straddles fantasy and science fiction. The machines aren’t powered by magic (except for sometimes, when they are), but the authors also don’t take time to break down into explanations of the circuitry and fiddly workings of their gadgets (except for sometimes, when they do).

Steampunk Floral Watch by Vasiliki Aranwen

Victorian London aside, it makes a lot of sense that our generation would turn to steampunk. We grew up with the Internet morphing from a nerdy project at tech-heavy colleges to something most of us can’t function without, and new releases in phones, music players, and computers make news.

Why shouldn’t writers treat technology with the same enthusiasm and wonder that we associate with magic?

Look at the recent resurgence of Dr. Who. A brilliant, charismatic outsider using a flying time travel machine and a few well-chosen gadgets to fight evil? Sounds like the definition of steampunk to me.

By using an anachronistic setting, steampunk heightens this sense of wonder, as well as tunes us in to a world many writers associate with genius (Sherlock Holmes and The Time Machine both date to the Victorian era, after all). In a world where the death of an inventor is mourned worldwide via the machines he created, it’s making less and less sense to turn to quasi-medieval settings for our fantasy literature.

So put down The Hobbit (at least until the refresher reread before the movie) and let’s get excited about automatons! Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories is a great place to start. The book both serves as a lively introduction to steampunk and a reminder that there is more to the genre than Queen Victoria and brass goggles. The editors note in their introduction, in fact, that they deliberately excluded Victorian London as a setting for the stories. The result is steampunk in the near future and ancient Rome, Ireland and the American South, and stories that range from tongue-in-cheek to adventurous to romantic to eerie.

An early favorite of mine was “Clockwork Fagin,” a playful retelling of Oliver Twist in which the orphaned boys hatch a plan to subdue their villainous master and live in style. “Some Fortunate Future Day,” a post-apocalyptic story of a girl living alone in an automated house who finds a wounded soldier in the backyard, reminds me a little of Ray Bradbury’s work. It’s short, tight, foreboding with a touch of sweetness mixed in at the same time.

Steampunk by Alexander Iglesias

It may not have Bradbury’s poetry in the writing, but I could see him writing something similar (and coming from me, this is high praise indeed!). The closing story, “The Oracle Machine,” takes the biggest leap of all back to ancient Rome, and mixes legend, history, and the eponymous invention into a story of fate and revenge.

Steampunk! accomplishes a lot in its 400-some pages: it will introduce and excite newcomers to the genre, while keeping plenty of new twists for established steampunk fans. I’m not saying every reader will enjoy every story—that’s not the point of an anthology—but you are bound to come away with a generous helping of what you like. And for those interested in trying different things this year, welcome to the steampunk genre!

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