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Infernal Devices: A Mad Victorian Fantasy (Infernal Devices #1)

3.38  ·  Rating Details ·  2,186 Ratings  ·  326 Reviews
It all began when the Brown Leather Man, a mysterious being with a secret older than humankind, asked proper Victorian London gentleman George Dower to repair a weird device. How could George have known that this was but one of the many infernal devices his genius father had built, and that he himself would soon be pursued by former clients of his father? For George had al ...more
Hardcover, 282 pages
Published January 1st 1987 by St. Martin's Press (first published December 1st 1986)
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mark monday
Steampunk, ahoy!

And hey, did you know that Jeter coined that term?

Remember when those fantastic adventure tales whose main goal was to tell a fast-paced story with some interesting ideas used to clock in under 250 pages and could be enjoyed in one long afternoon? And didn't have sequels? Probably not and I'm probably dating myself. It is nice to be reminded that such things were once fairly common. Maybe authors these days are afraid of being seen as somehow disposable or too lightweight. And w
Things I learned from K. W. Jeter in this book:

1) ALL women are only thinking about one thing. If they are Sexy, then they are sex-crazed animals who will rip off a man's clothes as soon as look at him (this is Logic) no matter how loudly he protests the indignity and begs her to control herself, madam! Alas!

2) If a woman is Not Sexy (i.e., middle aged and/or overweight) then they are on a mission fueled by jealousy and frustration to stop ANYONE EVER even THINKING about sex, ever again.
colleen the convivial curmudgeon

I keep bouncing back and forth on whether to give this one or two stars - though I'm pretty much sticking with the 1.5 either way. My dilemma is that while I didn't really like it, per se, I didn't actively dislike it, which is what I usually use 1-stars for, but I didn't like it, either.

I guess, for the most part, it was "ok", and I was going to give it a 2-stars for most of the book, but the ending left me feeling kinda "wtf?", which is why I was thinking of dropping it down. But it did hav
Infernal Devices as a steampunk novel is not nearly as famous as its author is for coining the phrase steampunk. I think Jeter may have simply said the first thing he thought of, not realizing that the term would stick.

This new edition of the novel attempts to capitalize on the recent popularity of steampunk fiction and well it should in my opinion. The novel is a prime example of a genre I love but tend to nitpick over, so do not let my rating discourage interest. I continue to float between 3
I've had this book vaguely on my mental list of books that might be interesting for a long time, but I picked it up on pure whim. I'm interested in how many low reviews it has: I think the problem is that people expect something great and marvelously written from the book that inaugurated such a huge cultural phenomenon as steampunk. It's not that. It's fun, silly, often ridiculous, and in no way intended to be taken too seriously, I think.

It's a juxtaposition of ideas, written very much in the
Sarah Anne
This was a fun early steampunk book. The character seemed to just reel from disaster to disaster with no time to adjust. It was fun.
I marked this as did not finish a few nights ago, and then I looked at how many books I had marked "DNF." Shamed, I woke up my Kindle once more and attempted to keep going.

I should have listened to my gut.

For most of my life, even if I hated a book, I would read it. The whole goshdurned thing. Then I would say, "THAT WAS SO AWFUL WHAT A WASTE OF MY TIME NGHAAAH!" or some such incoherent gabbling indicative of anger. Strangely enough, when I started working in a library, I started abandoning book
Amy Sturgis
This is one of the pioneering works of steampunk, and I'm glad I read it. It has many of the staples of the subgenre, from the Victorian setting to clockwork men, from time travel to not-so-mythical creatures (in this case, selkies). There are several well-crafted moments of ironic social commentary. It's easy to see how this wry and imaginative tale helped to set precedents for what followed.

That said, I didn't really enjoy this as a reading experience, despite Jeter's always-elegant prose. The
Kat  Hooper
Jan 20, 2012 Kat Hooper rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

George Dower's father was a watchmaker, but he didn't just make watches. Some of his special customers knew he was a genius with all sorts of gear work. When his father died, George inherited the watch shop. Unfortunately, he didn't inherit his father's genius. He can sometimes manage to fix a customer's watch if he sees that a part has worn out, or something else obvious is wrong, but that's about it. He's completely flummoxed when a strange brown man bri
Ringman Roth
I liked parts of this book, but overall there wasn't enough steampunk in it. The main character's personality was rather boring, and the pacing was all over the place. Furthermore, there were some really silly, "out - of place" elements in this book.

Warning Spoilers ahead!

I'm talking about the fish people. At first I thought this was some kind of lovecraftian(Shadow over Innsmouth) element, but the fish people serve no real purpose to the story. Most of them are part of a prostitution ring. You
Oct 20, 2011 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: steam-punk, read-2012
K W Jeter was one of the first writers of steampunk and the man who coined the term itself. Infernal Devices is an enjoyable romp written in a pastiche Victorian style with tongue firmly in cheek a lot of the time, it gently mocks it's pompous formal and stolid narrator who is put through a series of bizarre encounters featuring scenarios and characters who have since become tropes of the genre. The science and the explanation of the story events are a bit preposterous but it doesn't take itself ...more
Nov 10, 2010 Michael rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Infernal Devices is the first novel I've read in the now well-defined steampunk genre. Steampunk, as I understand it, is set exclusively in a Victorian setting, but contains many of the tropes of standard science fiction, including advanced technologies (though most rely on steam for energy, as opposed to electricity), time travel, alien beings, mysterious plot twists, and juvenile sexuality. While it has its roots in classic proto-sci-fi writers such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, it was refine ...more

Lots of fun in one of the original steampunk books!

The beginning of this book, while slightly slow, is full of amazing descriptions of life in Victorian London -- you honestly feel like you could be there yourself, which, considering all the things that ooze and stink, wouldn't be such a great thing.

George Dower finds himself embroiled in mystery and intrigue after taking over his deceased father's watch shop. Of course, having no mechanical abilities himself, he's having a rough go of it -- he
ᴥ Irena ᴥ
Infernal Devices is a dark and humorous account of events which almost destroyed the Earth. The story is then told by George Dower in retrospect, going back to the moment his faithful manservant Creff entered his room and told him he has a visitor, a "crazed - a murderous savage!".

Dower inherited a shop from his genius father and he is trying to get by repairing what he can. A surprise visit from that strange man marks the beginning of Dower's adventures. Next thing he knows there are burglars
If you need to fake your way through a Steampunk cocktail party, here's what you need to know about Infernal Devices and K. W. Jeter:

a) Jeter jokingly coined the term "steampunk" in a 1987 letter to Locus to describe "Victorian fantasies," which he predicted were going to be the next big thing (unclear whether that prediction was a joke);
b) this book involves the mechanically inept son of a clockwork inventor, who has inherited dear old dead dad's London shop, full of mysterious clockwork pieces
Aug 29, 2011 Gary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd give this a 3.5 if it were possible because there is a lot to admire about this book - the first steampunk book literally (Jeter coined the term in an interview) and that fact alone is enough to get the stars rising. You can see where several authors got inspiration from this book - pseudo-Victorian language mixed with some far out ideas and mechanical devices both ahead of their time and unnaturally effective in their abilities. Plus fish folk and puritanical movements dedicated to rubbing ...more
Apr 03, 2007 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
More properly referred to as "steampunk" than sci-fi, and written in Jeter's kinetic style, it follows the hapless son of a famous victorian mechanical inventor. He's constantly mistaken for his rather more talented father, which ultimately puts him in the middle of a plot to destroy the planet (to clean things up of course) while riding it all out in a pneumatic carriage or some such.

More than almost any other book I've read I'd love to see this made into a feature film.
Feb 01, 2012 D rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Dower gets chased. A lot. The end.
Jun 15, 2012 Sofia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
As expectativas eram muitas antes de ter começado a ler aquela que é considerada uma das obras pioneiras do steampunk original. Certamente, ler as obras de K.W. Jeter, autor responsável pela criação do próprio termo (vide carta à Revista Locus, 1987) é algo que está na lista de qualquer fã da literatura do género. E em termos de adequação ao género, o livro não desaponta. Infelizmente, em termos de estilo, história e personagens, deixa algo a desejar.

A história segue George Dower, filho pouco ta
Melissa McShane
I went into this knowing that it was a very early example of steampunk fiction, so if the science/steampunkiness was lacking, I wasn't going to mark it down for that. And it turned out that the science/steampunkiness was very good! Lots of clockwork things and people, and you can tell that Jeter came out of the same primordial puddle as Tim Powers. The plot was also pretty good. It was the characters that killed it for me.

Basically, the hero, George, is a gormless panty-waisted wuss of the first
Apr 03, 2013 Richard rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Steampunk completists
Recommended to Richard by: SciFi & Fantasy Group 2013-04 Science Fiction Selection
A lot of imagination went into this book, but not enough discipline or storytelling craft. For the majority of the book, the author shoves the first-person narrator through inexplicable and astonishing events, and then crams their eventual denouement into a few pages via telling instead of showing, when other characters explain to our befuddled protagonist what was happening.

For most folks, that would probably be enough to shove this down to a one- or two-star rating, but I'm more generous. What
This book took me a little by surprise. When I hear the term 'steampunk' I image trains, elaborate dinner parties with mad inventors, a duel with pistols, things along those kind of lines. What I found in this book was fun. There were mad scientist type characters, a sex crazed thief, a strange race of fish people, a mechanical violinist with human aspirations and a lame little Jack Russell. Needless to say I will be searching out more of Jeter's books.

This book centres on the son of a genius m
Apr 11, 2015 Diletta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
È possibile unire steampunk (quello fatto bene), fantasy, horror e nefandezze umane senza creare un'opera che soddisfi solamente la vostra voglia di leggere del sano pattume senza rifletterci sopra? Sì. Possibilissimo. Procuratevi questo romanzo e poi ditemi se non vi sentite tremendamente osservati.
Ted Gilbert
Sep 25, 2012 Ted Gilbert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s been on my agenda for some time now to explore the works that make up the “first wave” of steampunk literature. The cohort of authors that comprise this moment are generally considered to be K.W. Jeter, Tim Powers, and James P. Blaylock, with various proto-steampunk authors, most notably Michael Moorcock coming before, and Bruce Sterling and William Gibson’s The Difference Engine following shortly. Like many current devotees of the genre and the culture, my main exposure to the literature h ...more
Apr 03, 2011 Enso rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wrote this review at

This last week, I read the reissue of K. W. Jeter’s classic steampunk novel, Infernal Devices. This is being released in the next month by Angry Robot and I managed to score a review copy from them. Jeter hasn’t written much in the last decade. I’m not sure what he’s been up to and his bio page doesn’t help… The bulk of his work was during the 80′s into the early 90′s. For those unfamiliar with his work, he was pretty influential i
Nov 12, 2013 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: steampunk

There's a lot to like here. There's a rollicking, fun adventure story, with some truly colorful characters, some truly funny humor, mystery, intrigue, and of course, the devices the title describes.

It's a pity that it all feels a little flat, like the author is telling us the condensed version.

The chief problem is the protagonist, George Dower. The plot hinges on him, and yet he is the ultimate in a do-nothing protagonist. Lots of heroes start out that way, but George never changes. He is,
Ole Imsen
Apr 04, 2011 Ole Imsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a bit of a peculiar acquaintance. It is written in a style that is distinctly Victorian, and I would not have been surprised if it was originally published in 1897 based only on how it is written.
It is written in a style that is reminiscent of both Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, and to some extent H.P. Lovecraft's tales. We get a protagonist that tells the story himself after everything is over. Not as a diary, but as if he himself was writing this story of what hap
Jul 06, 2012 Sheri rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This book is not worth reading. It showed up on one of my recommendation lists from goodreads, but it was garbage. Clearly, any book that ends with the hero saving the world (yes, the entire world will crumble unless he does this) by sleeping with the minor character that has been attempting to seduce him the whole time is absurd. The best I can come up with is that the author was trying for ridiculous and embedding all these cultural references throughout just for his own silly entertainment. H ...more
Lily E
Mar 15, 2011 Lily E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: steampunk, arc
I’ve been coming across the subject steampunk every so often while browsing through my favorite genre Urban Fantasy. It seems only appropriate that I venture for the first time in the genre with the classic Infernal Devices.

The book introduces us to Dower Junior, son of renowned clockwork maker who inherits his shop and trade, but not his skill. The visit of a mysterious client starts a most disconcerting chain of events that will lead him far from the safety of his house.

The narrative is told f
Artur Coelho
Jeter é um dos mais importantes escritores do género steampunk e creditado como o criador do termo. Confesso que influenciado pela espectacularidade estética do génereo, tinha grandes expectativas quando peguei neste livro. Infelizmente a leitura foi para mim algo decepcionante. Se Jeter brilha na inventividade e descrições de mecanismos neo-vitorianos de relojoaria, deixando muito terreno em aberto à imaginação para pensar autómatos e engenhocas, o argumento perde-se num ritmo muito rápido onde ...more
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  • Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded (Steampunk, #2)
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  • Steampunk Prime: A Vintage Steampunk Reader
Kevin Wayne Jeter (born 1950) is an American science fiction and horror author known for his literary writing style, dark themes, and paranoid, unsympathetic characters. He is also credited with the coining of the term "Steampunk." K. W. has written novels set in the Star Trek and Star Wars universe, and has written three (to date) sequels to Blade Runner.

* Doctor Adder

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More about K.W. Jeter...

Other Books in the Series

Infernal Devices (2 books)
  • Fiendish Schemes (Infernal Devices, #2)

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“And if I were to open you up - would you see anything less remarkable? Less intricately dazzling, in its squelching, spongy way? Lungs and heart and spleen, and all the rest - ticking away, as it were? Yet you walk down the boulevard, and pass any number of such wonderful devices, all ticking away as they walk, and think it no great marvel.” 6 likes
“What is the future going to be like, then?'

'Hey, it's gonna be a gas,' Scape assured me. 'If you're into machines and stuff - like I am - you'd go for it. People are gonna have all kinds of shit. Do whatever they want with it. That's why it didn't faze me when ol' Bendray first told me about wanting to blow up the world. Hey - in the Future, everybody will want to!”
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