While I've enjoyed George Mann's other work that I've read, this book was a bit of a let-down. The story was exciting and fast-paced, and had some nic...moreWhile I've enjoyed George Mann's other work that I've read, this book was a bit of a let-down. The story was exciting and fast-paced, and had some nice set-pieces and imagery. However, the character development, particularly on the part of the villain, felt very sketchy. We never really get a sense of the villain's motivation, and this leads to him just feeling like he's doing bad things because he's evil, or crazy, or both. We also never really get a sense of what the evil, crazy rituals he's performing are meant to accomplish, or if they would have succeeded. The tension isn't there, because we don't know what's at stake.
I am interested in the stuff being set up with the main characters. Mann is building a number of conflicts between them, with Newberry's growing addictions, Veronica's secrets, and whatever is going on with her sister. These are the things that will keep me reading.
In addition, I've read enough other Mann work that I've enjoyed that I'm not going to give up on this series. And the short stories at the end of the book were much stronger than the novel, which is another reason for me to continue. However, I wish I could recommend this as strongly as I did the first book in the series. Here's hoping things improve with book 3. (less)
It's tough to review this first installment of the new Pax Britannia book fairly, since it is only the first third of the story. On top of that, not o...moreIt's tough to review this first installment of the new Pax Britannia book fairly, since it is only the first third of the story. On top of that, not only do I, as a reader, not know where the story is going next, neither does the author: this installment ends on a cliffhanger, and readers can go to the publisher's web site to vote on which way they think the story should go next. The second installment will have a similar vote, and only after the third part is published as an ebook will the whole thing be released as a complete novel.
I can say, as someone who has only read the first Ulysses Quicksilver Pax Britannia novel before I read this one, it's fairly accessible. There's quite a bit of mention of earlier stories, but while I understood that I was coming in on the middle of a series, I didn't feel particularly lost. While this story very much seems to follow on from a cliffhanger in the previous book, I felt I had enough information to still enjoy it. Plus, once that cliffhanger was wrapped up, the new story was completely fresh and accessible.
What I ended up with was a fast-paced, science fiction, steampunk action-adventure, with some cute nods to genuine Victorian science fiction. The interactive part of the story was fun, and it's really got me looking forward to the next installment (which is why I was willing to skip ahead in the series). And now I've got some time to get caught up!(less)
While there's nothing really wrong with a steampunk mashup between Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (one of my favorite plays) and Wilde's The Importance o...moreWhile there's nothing really wrong with a steampunk mashup between Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (one of my favorite plays) and Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest (which I've never read), this comedy of manners with clockwork brass machinery never really engaged my interest. Young female inventor Violet's masquerade as her own brother to enter a male-only science academy was entertaining enough, but I never really felt like there was enough at stake to worry if she was found out or not. The fact that the young female ward of Duke Ernest, the man in charge of the academy, seemed to have the run of the place, and was working on her own inventions openly, lessened a lot of the impact. As did the fact that the duke's godmother also taught at the school.
The book dangles the promise of a mysterious conspiracy in front of the audience, but without any real consequence. In fact, overall, the book is just a leisurely comedy of manners, which is fine, until things take an abrupt shift in the last 20 pages and it suddenly becomes an action story. It doesn't feel particularly organic, and actually distracts more than anything.
Overall, I found this book to be entertaining and amusing, but not compelling reading. Fortunately, it wasn't a struggle, either. So, I give it three stars, because it was a little more than just okay, but not a book that leaves a lasting impression.(less)
I became a fan of the newly-named Steampunk genre in 1985 or 1986, after reading James Blaylock's Homunculus. Now, 25 or so years later, it's interest...moreI became a fan of the newly-named Steampunk genre in 1985 or 1986, after reading James Blaylock's Homunculus. Now, 25 or so years later, it's interesting to read new stories about those characters, knowing that Steampunk (as a genre) has grown and changed into something else.
The adventures of Professor Langdon St. Ives and his friends still read like madcap, pulpy adventures. This one is fast-paced and funny, with the friends striving to stop the evil hunchback, Doctor Ignacio Narabando, from gaining control of a madness-inducing ray. It's got action, mystery, secret lairs and Victorian-era technology developed beyond what actually existed. It's everything I remember from the original, and everything I want from a new James Blaylock story about these characters.
It's also got some great, weird illustrations by JK Potter, that perfectly capture the feel of the story. All in all, fans of what Steampunk has been developed into may be disappointed by this story's lack of clockwork technology and characters wearing goggles. Fans of old-fashioned pulp adventure, however, will love it.(less)
Phil and Kaja Foglio's Girl Genius is a fast-paced, antic introduction to the adventures of Agatha Heterodyne and her world. Like the first prose nove...morePhil and Kaja Foglio's Girl Genius is a fast-paced, antic introduction to the adventures of Agatha Heterodyne and her world. Like the first prose novel in this series, this book feels very much like an installment of a series, rather than a complete work in its own right. That's fine, since it's clearly labeled Book One all over the cover.
The story clearly introduces the main characters (Agatha, Baron Wolfenbach, and his son, Gilgamesh) through dialogue and action. It sets up a clear, distinct world, where clockwork technology feels right at home alongside nineteenth century society. And the art is expressive and detailed while still telling the story clearly.
A hallmark of Phil Foglio's work is his humor, and that's very much to the fore in this story. However, he maintains a balance between the humor and the suspense, and that's what makes this series such a compelling read for me.
I had been really looking forward to The Buntline Special. I love Weird Westerns in general. I had also read on the publisher's blog that they didn't...moreI had been really looking forward to The Buntline Special. I love Weird Westerns in general. I had also read on the publisher's blog that they didn't just want to publish steampunk novels, but wanted something with a twist. So when this book turned out to be a disappointment for me, it was a pretty big disappointment indeed.
For a 300+ page book, The Buntline Special felt pretty slight. The characters, outside of Doc Holiday, didn't feel particularly developed. It's hard to emotionally invest in characters you don't get to know. And if I'm not invested in the characters, I'm also not invested in their conflicts. And if I'm not invested in the conflicts, there's not a lot for me to care about.
Even worse, the "weird" elements just felt layered on top of a fairly lackluster standard Western. None of the fantasy elements were necessary. Electric powered stagecoaches? Robot prostitutes? Zombie gunmen? All window dressing. A character gets transformed into a giant bat, and absolutely nothing is done with it. If the fantastical elements of a story aren't going to be important, then they shouldn't be there at all.
Phil and Kaja Foglio's adaptation of their graphic novel series captures all the humor and twisty plot stuff in prose that features in the illustrated...morePhil and Kaja Foglio's adaptation of their graphic novel series captures all the humor and twisty plot stuff in prose that features in the illustrated version. By not taking itself too seriously, this book sets itself apart from a lot of other steampunk stories. Unfortunately, since it is (probably) a fairly faithful adaptation of the beginning of a much longer work, it feels more like a first installment in a longer story, rather than a complete piece in its own right.
Still, I love what I've read of the comic, and I really liked this book, so I have every intention of reading future installments.(less)
Ghosts of Manhattan was a lot of fun. Unlike a lot of pulp homages, Mann doesn't try to echo the clunky dialogue and purple prose of the originals. In...moreGhosts of Manhattan was a lot of fun. Unlike a lot of pulp homages, Mann doesn't try to echo the clunky dialogue and purple prose of the originals. Instead, he makes his book feel the way we remember the pulps feeling, concentrating on reminding us of the best qualities (fast pacing, larger than life weird action) instead of the worst.
I did wonder if too much information was saved until the final chapters, but ultimately, I think he did just enough foreshadowing to set everything up. I really enjoyed this book, and would definitely read future adventures of the Ghost.(less)
A very fun, fast-paced, visual tale in an intriguing steampunk universe. Full of compelling characters, Cherie Priest has created a setting/series I l...moreA very fun, fast-paced, visual tale in an intriguing steampunk universe. Full of compelling characters, Cherie Priest has created a setting/series I look forward to revisiting.(less)