This novel stretches the usual Steampunk setting into the present day. But it is not the present day as we know it, but an Alternate History present...more This novel stretches the usual Steampunk setting into the present day. But it is not the present day as we know it, but an Alternate History present day that is the home to the denizens we are with familiar seeing in Victorian times. The setting itself is pretty much what you would expect from a Steampunk novel that has the werewolves and vampires from modern Urban Fantasy, but that doesn't mean that this is a formulaic novel. There are lots of great ideas here, and Locke manages to take the elements that make up the novel and make a very entertaining story out of them.
Locke puts a very nice twist on the origin of werewolves and vampires that I found very interesting. In fact he whole worldbuilding is very nicely done, there's much history too it, and it has many very interesting elements. There's actually quite a bit to take in here, and that is something I really appreciated. It shows that Locke can create a vivid world, and has the skill to make it come alive on the page.
The characters are also done in a realistic fashion. Xandra comes especially alive, and we get a very good insight into her. That events take her to places that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable to her adds to both her depth and her strength. She's a strong female, who is both special, and for what she is, also feels realistic. Xandra is definitely a character who is worth spending some time with. Supporting Xandra are quite a few diverse characters, along with some historic persons who add to the realistic feel of the novel. All of these are well realised, and are interesting in their own right. They never feel like they exist just to be "scenery" for the main character.
On to the story. Locke gives us a story that has action and mystery from the start. Central to it is a conspiracy that Xandra is thrown into. Along the way there are lots of twist and turns, the pace is fast and there is plenty of tension. Locke is very good at getting the balance been a fast pace and the building of tension. There is a sense of never quite being in the know that runs through the whole novel, and as we learn more we get dragged into the events. There's a real sense of the story developing before our eyes, and being taken along for the ride. And it is a thoroughly entertaining journey to go on.
This is a very good example of the Steampunk/Urban Fantasy crossover genre done right. The setting is well developed enough to satisfy fans of Alternate History, and the werewolf/vampire elements will be great for fans of that type of Urban Fantasy. Locke has created a great world, and some great characters well worth spending time with. And I look forward to future installments in this series.
In this volume of her A Clockwork Century series, Priest takes us back to Seattle, the setting of the first book in the series, Boneshaker. It's a we...more In this volume of her A Clockwork Century series, Priest takes us back to Seattle, the setting of the first book in the series, Boneshaker. It's a welcome return, both to the setting, and to the characters from the first book. As an added bonus for those who enjoy this series, there's also mention of the events of Dreadnought and Ganymede. And we get to see how Dreadnought's main character Mercy Lynch has settled into the walled city of Seattle. There's always the danger when an author revisits previous settings through new POV eyes that they tell too much of the setting for those that are familiar with it, and too little for those that are jumping in to a series. Priest manages to follow the narrow path of satisfying readers both old and new here. For me as a return reader, I didn't feel bogged down with information I already knew, but welcomed the reminders of what has gone before. And I can't say I can see a problem for a new reader to the series in following what is going on if they start with this book.
The story itself can be divided into three parts, Rector's journey, the mysterious creature, and the human intruders. But this is much more than three stories that are loosely connected, the three parts both feed off each other and add to each other, and creates a larger whole than the sum of the parts it consists of. That the three strands of the story are quite different in nature, will mean that not everyone will have the same reaction to each one. For me the journey of Rector stood a little bit above the others, but I still very much enjoyed the other two story strands, and without them Rector's journey would have been much less than it ended up as.
As with the previous volumes, Priest is very adept at creating a tense atmosphere. The location, the walled city of Seattle, is described in such a way that it feels claustrophobic at times. Priest is very good at conveying the feeling that anything can happen, and it never feels like you have figured out exactly were you will be led by the novel. Even though I personally figured one element out very quickly, I was never sure I was right about it before much later, and it didn't hamper my enjoyment of the story.
There is some action in the novel, but this isn't Steampunk-Action as much as it is Steampunk-Alternate History. -I must add, Steampunk-Alternate History with some very good worldbuilding. Being a fan of Alternate History, I have enjoyed that element in the A Clockwork Century a lot, and this element doesn't disappoint here either. With each volume in the series Priest manages to subtly add to her alternate worlds texture, making it a little bit more solid, or real if you want, at the end of the novel than it was before you started it.
All in all I found this very much to my liking. It's an excellent follow-up to what has gone before, and as I mentioned above, it is possible to read it without having read any of the previous A Clockwork Century books. Priest continues to be one of the great authors in the Steampunk subgenre of SFF. And as well as being a must for fans of Steampunk, this book deserves to be read by anyone who is a fan of well written SFF.
If you have read Crime Noir, you'll recognise both the atmosphere that this novel creates and its 20th century setting. But it's not as simple as tha...more If you have read Crime Noir, you'll recognise both the atmosphere that this novel creates and its 20th century setting. But it's not as simple as that, this isn't "just" Crime Noir but rather a mix of genres. Christopher blends Crime Noir with superheroes and parallel universes, and he does it in such a way that his novel retains the rugged realism of Crime Noir.
The story starts off in a way that isn't out of place in any 1930s set crime novel, but that changes very quickly, and we are soon transported into the realm of SFF. Structurally however the story stays in the realm of Crime Noir. It moves rather slowly, and it can feel frustrating at times that the answers to all the questions the novel poses take a long time to get answered. But that is not a flaw, Christopher deliberately holds his cards to his chest while he builds the characters and setting.
The slow pace is wonderful for the atmosphere of the book, and Christopher really pays back the readers patience when he gives us the answers to the many mysteries we are presented with along the way. It's impossible to predict what will happen, or what role many of the characters eventually will have in the story. This makes each revelation more powerful, and adds a lot to the depth of the story. Although the pace is slow, the story never gets dull. Christopher's writing is great throughout, and he's very good at holding on to the readers interest. And more importantly there's no authorial cheating. When the answers come they do so in a way that feels natural to the story, and there is no revelations that come out of the blue.
There is also quite a bit of action in the book, especially towards the end. The action is very well done, it is written in a way that creates a lot of tension, and the change of pace from the slower build up gives it a very nice urgency.
When there's a mix of different genres, like in this novel, there's always a danger that some element of it feels like it is put there as an afterthought. That is not the case here at all, the SFF elements and the Crime Noir flow together seamlessly, and it is definitely all needed to make the novel a whole. I never felt that anything suffered in the mix either, there's full development of all the genre parts of this novel. The crime, superheroes, and parallel universe all are fully developed. And together they make something that feels fresh and exciting.
All in all this is a wonderful debut novel, there's not really any flaws at all. Whether your preference lies in parallel universes, crime, or superheroes, this is a novel that should find its way into your hands at the earliest opportunity. The world, the characters, and the story are all excellent and together they will give you a great reading experience.
Sales's novella is very Hard SF one, but as it becomes clear rather quickly it is set in an Alternate History. This may seem like being a contradicti...more Sales's novella is very Hard SF one, but as it becomes clear rather quickly it is set in an Alternate History. This may seem like being a contradiction, but Sales manages to make it work very well. Interestingly it is neither the Hard SF nor the Alternate History elements that are the best thing in this story. What stands out most is the feeling of desolation and claustrophobia that Sales conveys through his writing. There is an underlying tension to the whole of this, that together with the chilling Alternate History scenario in the background makes for a very eerie read.
Being a fan of Alternate History, I care about how "what if..." scenarios are presented. It doesn't matter how interesting an idea the diversion from our history is if there's no plausible way to get to the alternative world that the story contains. Fortunately, that is not a problem here. Sales presents a future that seems to be just a flicker of coincidence away from the history we know.
There is something that has to be mentioned about the Hard SF in this novella, namely that it very easy to argue that there is none. This may sound a bit strange of me to say when I have already stated that this is "very Hard SF", but the SF is only Hard SF in the Alternate History setting of the story. If you, like some people I have seen online, argue that Alternate History is Fantasy, rather than Science Fiction, then this would be a Fantasy novella. As someone who has a strong interest in History, I would say that Alternate History is without a doubt Science Fiction (, i.e. scientific speculation about how history could have diverged), and thus I don't hesitate to say that this is a Hard SF story in an Alternate History setting. Without going into spoilers, I will say that there is an element that isn't very realistic. But in the way it is handled here that is not a problem. Rather it feels as an integral part of the alternative timeline of the story, and in my opinion doesn't detract anything from the Hard SF feel of this novella.
The story itself is very well written. Sales manages to convey a lot in a limited amount of space, especially the worldbuilding is excellent. Most of the history of this timeline is presented in its own passages, as retrospectives. I found this to work very well, they add to the main storyline without being disruptive to the flow of the story. I've already mentioned the tension of this story, and that builds nicely as the narrative moves along. It's never clear what is going to be the conclusion to this tale, and the ending comes with a very satisfying twist.
There's no doubt that this story will be a great read for those who are fans of Hard SF, and the Alternate History elements make it worth picking up for fans of that genre. It's connection to the Apollo program will also make this a good read for anyone interested in real world human space exploration.
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 o...more 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 happened. And I found this helped a great deal to set the mood, and transport me to the time when the story is set.
There is absolutely no doubt that this is a steampunk story, the whole story revolves around clockwork creations. But Jeter has not limited himself to just this aspect, there is also a distinctly Lovecraftian(-ish) element here. Both elements are handled very well, and they compliment each other rather than taking attention away from each other.
Jeter is great at getting the reader going. The narrator's hints at things that for him has happened, but is still to come for the reader, makes you want to read on to find out what has happened. And there are several mysteries introduced early on, and there are more to come. The story takes several twists and turns I did not see coming, and you will never quite know which characters will turn out to be friend or foe. When there is action, and there is quite a bit of it, it is handled very well. The first person narration puts you in the middle of what is happening and at times this takes you on quite a ride.
The only problem I had with the book was the ending. It felt a bit rushed, and although it was pretty fulfilling, I felt it lacked a bit compared to the rest of the novel. But that being said, it is by no means so weak as to make the novel anything less than highly enjoyable. If you are the least bit interested in steampunk this is certainly a must-read novel. And it is Victorian enough that it should be in the collection of everyone who likes science fiction from that period.
There was some major events at the end of the second book in this series, Changeless, so this was an eagerly awaited book for me. And I was not disap...more There was some major events at the end of the second book in this series, Changeless, so this was an eagerly awaited book for me. And I was not disappointed.
The opening chapter gives us a quick reminder of past events, and also gets us up to date with the story of Alexia. This is a action-filled book, and Miss Carriger doesn't waste anytime in throwing us right into the middle of it. An early mystery is thrown into the mix, and we are off on a fun journey into Alexia Tarabotti's Europe.
It is the traveling that helps make this book so good. By having Alexia travel out of the United Kingdom, in this case to France and Italy, Miss Carriger gets the opportunity to show off more of the world we are in. And she does this magnificently. There is a sense here that this is a fully fleshed out alternate history Europe. Among other things, we get to know much more about the paranormal's special place in UK society, and how some of the other countries in Europe sees them. This adds another layer to the background, or should I say Worldbuilding?, that Miss Carriger has put into the world of the Parasol Protectorate. As a fan of history, both real and alternate, I really appreciate that.
Right from the start of the book we have events that helps us understand better who Alexia is, and how she has become that way. We get to see even more of how her family is, and this especially feels true to having formed the personality Alexia has become. We also get some surprising and intriguing information about Alexia's family background.
There is a parallel plot going on here, that I will not call a B-plot as it is just as fascinating as the story of what happens on Alexia's travels. And it also adds a lot to both characters and the world the story is set in. There's also quite a bit of historical fact, to this alternate world, sprinkled about in the book, something I found very rewarding. (Also keep an eye open for the hilarious names of some of the incidental characters.)
Miss Carriger has continued the story of Alexia Taraotti in excellent fashion. This book gripped me from the first page to the last, and I am already looking forward to the next installment, Heartless, that is coming in June this year. Whether your interest lies in Victoriana, alternate history, Steampunk, Urban Fantasy, or just an action-packed adventure, you almost certainly will find something to love in this book.
All in all this is a very powerful novel. It is brutal in many ways, for some perhaps too brutal, but it never feels gratuitous. It will however get...more All in all this is a very powerful novel. It is brutal in many ways, for some perhaps too brutal, but it never feels gratuitous. It will however get under your skin in some way. And the story will stay with you for a while, there are underpinnings that demand that you think about them. In many ways this is a novel that defies traditional genre classification. It's Alternate History, Near Future Science Fiction, Dystopic Science Fiction, and definitely a comment on society and human nature. This is a novel that in my opinion deserves to be read by many more people, and I urge everyone who reads this review to give it a try. It should be required reading for anyone who likes any of the subgenres, or themes, that I have mentioned above.