It was my turn to pick for book club, and wanting to pick something different, I thought of this steampunk classic that I had already loaded onto my KIt was my turn to pick for book club, and wanting to pick something different, I thought of this steampunk classic that I had already loaded onto my Kindle but hadn't yet read. It was short at around 250 pages, it was available for $2.79 on the Kindle, and it had won a Phillip K. Dick award for distinguished science fiction. So why then, out of seven people, did only two of us, myself included, manage to finish it?
Well for one, it had a hell of an in medias res opening. I mean the story really should have started fifteen years prior, and the prologue could have done more to set up the plot and expectations, and not just the tone and mood. That being said, about of the third of the way in, I started getting traction as to what on this alternate earth was going on and began appreciating the absolute lack of anything resembling an infodump anywhere in the entire novel. However, many of my fellow bookclubbers abandoned ship before this point, and I really can't blame them.
This read was not a typical 250 page breeze, which surprised me -- possibly because most steampunk novels I have read, such as The Leviathan Trilogy and Boneshaker, are aimed at a YA audience? This read much slower, nearly as slow as the ultimate grandfather to the steampunk genre, Jules Verne.
The shame of most of my book club not finishing it, though, is that this story picked up steam in a parabolic curve, exponentially becoming more fun and exciting and leading to a spirited, and appropriately ridiculous, climax, which served to tie up almost all of the loose ends, as well as shedding light on any remaining mysteries accumulated during the process of reading the novel.
There is humor to be found in here. Although it is not a comedy, there are enough hijinks, oddities and playfully macabre antics to keep things lively, as one may expect in a novel where an airship driven by a skeleton is in low orbit around the earth for years. There is also an interesting MacGuffin shell game, where instead of having just one macguffin -- the one containing the homunculus -- there are four, and they get swapped around to a dizzying point where even the reader cannot keep track of which is which. What is not in this novel, however, is enough characterization of its ensemble cast, not even of the nominal protagonist, Langdon St. Ives. And the antagonists are each more of a caricature than the next -- Narbondo, the mad scientist that reanimated corpses, is a hunchback, for example.
To sum it up, if you can get into this novel, which takes some good amount of patience, there is a worthy payoff. But this is not the novel I would go about gifting someone thinking of exploring the steampunk genre, at risk of turning them off to it completely, as I fear I may have done with my book club....more
I am ever curious about anything that furthers the Sherlock Holmes canon, but simultaneously terrified this will be terrible -- but for 99c, I just coI am ever curious about anything that furthers the Sherlock Holmes canon, but simultaneously terrified this will be terrible -- but for 99c, I just couldn't say no....more
The broad premise of this novel -- a young and naive protagonist pulled from a simple life into a whirlwind adventure traversing the continent, climaxThe broad premise of this novel -- a young and naive protagonist pulled from a simple life into a whirlwind adventure traversing the continent, climaxing in a confrontation with an abhorrent antagonist -- is not groundbreaking or original in any way, but honestly, not every book needs to be. Sometimes an interesting version of a well-worn story can be literature's comfort food. And with the interesting elements in this book including a steam-punk weird west varnish, an interesting (if not airtight) magic system, a light and breezy tone, and enjoyable banter between the young heroine witch Emily Edwards and her foil, rapscallion warlock Dreadnought Stanton, you can't go too horribly wrong.
Also, extra points for the very loose love-triangle not being wedged any tighter into the story -- if I even thought we were heading to Team Dreadnought / Team Dag territory, I may have abandoned the book with unforeseen quickness.
That said, there were a few too many plot-threads needlessly complicating this otherwise simple tale, which felt a bit overdone and unnecessary. And, of course, like with every other book I read nowadays, this one is the first in a series, which Goodreads is informing me is called the Veneficas Americana. While I may return to this series, I certainly won't be hurrying back to it....more
A beautiful illustrated addendum to Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy -- one of my favorite young adult series to date. It features tons of full-coA beautiful illustrated addendum to Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy -- one of my favorite young adult series to date. It features tons of full-color illustrations of the uniforms, creatures, airships, and walkers of the Leviathan universe, as well as some character portraits, although no plot or story related content....more
A lot of people find China Mieville's prose to be spectacular; for some reason, I can't get through it. It doesn't matter if he is spinning the greateA lot of people find China Mieville's prose to be spectacular; for some reason, I can't get through it. It doesn't matter if he is spinning the greatest yarn of all time if I can't clearly follow what is happening, and am not compelled, in any way, shape of form, to turn the pages. A lot of people find his ideas to be brilliant; I just can't wade my way through his text long enough to find out if they are right. There are too many other authors I love, and too many other books I want to read, for me to struggle with this any longer. Either there is an Emperor's New Clothes situation going on with this author, or I am seriously deficient in my reading abilities. Either way, I doubt I'll be revisiting his work anytime soon, not after not being able to finish Kraken or this -- and I picked this because it was allegedly a young adult book, so I figured Mieville would have to tone down the writing flourishes. I was wrong. ...more
This book got off to such a great start. Read the following in your best movie preview announcer voice.
A mysterious sea monster haunting the world's sThis book got off to such a great start. Read the following in your best movie preview announcer voice.
A mysterious sea monster haunting the world's seas... an expedition to hunt it down... a meeting, ending in the imprisonment of our hero and his comrades in the belly of -- not a monster -- but a mysterious underwater vessel... the Nautilus, a character unto itself, and its enigmatic owner, their captor, Captain Nemo.
From that point I was hooked. I wanted to know all about Captain Nemo, his mysterious business, and the fate of his three prisoner guests.
Unfortunately, Jules Verne had a different idea at that point. He decided to use this incredible set-up as a reason to give dozens upon dozens of pages of the novel to cataloging the different fish and other sea creatures they encounter in their 20,000 league journey. The book could probably easily be separated into the adventure story I was looking for, and the nautical encyclopedia that I instead found.
Despite these lengthy expository segments, there are still many moments of excitement and wonder -- the coral forests, the shipwrecks, the pearl diving, the underwater volcano, the South Pole, the underwater graveyard, Atlantis, the battle with the giant squid, etc. -- hiding within its pages.
Having excised the cataloging -- which the narrator himself admits is dry and boring -- and having an ending that revealed more of the mystery behind Captain Nemo, this could have easily been a four-star book....more
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack was a fun steam-punk romp with a sci-fi time-travel twist. The pace was break-neck, even if the plot was a biThe Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack was a fun steam-punk romp with a sci-fi time-travel twist. The pace was break-neck, even if the plot was a bit incoherent at times. The interplay between the colorful cast of characters, most of which were stolen from real-life historical figures, made the book. This same winning recipe continued in The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, which left me excited to read this third and final volume of the Burton & Swinburne trilogy.
Sadly, that excitement died the moment I opened Expeditions to the Mountains of the Moon. The lightness in tone was gone, replaced by a bleak fatalism. The banter between the cast also disappeared, as each of the supporting casts' moment was relegated to their swan song. The Burton & Swinburne moniker doesn't even really apply to this book, as it is mostly Burton, and Swinburne's final appearance is an absurd scene (view spoiler)[where he is transformed into a mutant plant that not only speaks, but bears fruit containing juice that is actually brandy (hide spoiler)]. This book also abandoned its steam-punk origins; it is a full-fledged time-travel book, with rules more convoluted than quantum mechanics, and multiple alternate versions of history.
The book actually jumps back and forth between two time-lines so often that every time I even became mildly interested in where the plot was going, I became stymied by the other time-line being forced back upon me. The latter of the two time-lines was mostly to blame, as it featured Burton alone in a alternate future that the reader has no vested interest in, and the explanation for his purpose there is not given until the story's climax.
I almost lemmed this book more times than I can count. The only thing that kept me going was that I'd already read the two books that preceded it, and wanted to know how the trilogy ended. The conclusion wound up being the final nail in the coffin. I could have forgiven a lot of this book's many faults if the ending were a satisfying one. But instead, the ending is unsatisfying on every level, and also more opaque than the ending of Twelve Monkeys, thanks to the book's convoluted time-travel elements.
I'm so disappointed with this concluding volume that I'd seriously reconsider recommending even the first two books in the trilogy to others.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I only read the Cory Doctorow story 'Clockwork Fagin', as I picked up a free preview copy of the story on my Kindle. Doctorow proves with his story thI only read the Cory Doctorow story 'Clockwork Fagin', as I picked up a free preview copy of the story on my Kindle. Doctorow proves with his story that he does steampunk just as well as he does cyberpunk. It was definitely good enough to make me consider buying the entire anthology. ...more
I got this at a Border's Going-out-of-Business sale (solely because it has the coolest cover art I've ever seen), only to later realize it was the secI got this at a Border's Going-out-of-Business sale (solely because it has the coolest cover art I've ever seen), only to later realize it was the second in a series, so I had to read the first one before reading this one. After finishing the first book, The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, I was even more excited to read this sequel.
It picked up right where the first left off, with a new case that echoed back to the events in the first book. Where the first book was a steam-punk book with some minor sci-fi elements, this second book is a sci-fi book set in a steam-punk world -- and despite the increase in sci-fi elements, it works brilliantly.
While the story elements were all over the map at various points, it all tied together at the end, and has me excited to read the conclusion of the trilogy that was just released, Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon (which refers to mountains in Africa, not the actual moon).
My only complaint is that in two specific instances, the author tried to be too clever/cute for his own good: naming a police character Sergeant Slaughter, and having a Eugenist insect-shell-vehicle named the Folks Wagon Beetle. ...more
I'm so glad I stumbled onto this imaginative steam-punk series. I loved the protagonist, a fictionalized Sir Richard Francis Burton, his side-kick, anI'm so glad I stumbled onto this imaginative steam-punk series. I loved the protagonist, a fictionalized Sir Richard Francis Burton, his side-kick, an equally fictionalized Algernon Charles Swinburne, and their adventures in this alternate Victorian England, complete with genetically modified animals, steam engine-propelled penny farthings and flying rotochairs (view spoiler)[and, of course, time-travel (hide spoiler)].
I loved the inclusion of so many personalities of the time, such as Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale and Oscar Wilde, and the allusions to others like Edgar Allen Poe's C. Auguste Dupin and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.
Though a few points of the novel bogged down with speeches on the nature of man in relation to the ethics of the technological advances occurring, the pacing builds nicely throughout the book and climaxes in a rip-roaring crescendo. I am very much looking forward to reading the sequel, The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book had it all: action, adventure, intrigue, romance, exotic travel (view spoiler)[Russia, Tokyo, California, Mexico and New York (hide spoiler)This book had it all: action, adventure, intrigue, romance, exotic travel (view spoiler)[Russia, Tokyo, California, Mexico and New York (hide spoiler)], and -- most importantly of all -- closure. It also had some interesting historical figures playing prominent roles in the story (view spoiler)[Nikola Tesla, William Randolph Hearst and Pancho Villa (hide spoiler)].
This book was the perfect ending to a nearly perfect trilogy. I enjoyed this series so much, I am looking forward to rereading the entire thing in the near future -- which, with the number of books I haven't read on my queue, is something I rarely do.
I'm also really hoping, against all logic, that there are further adventures coming from the pen of Scott Westerfeld about Deryn, Alek and their incredible cast of friends and allies.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I read this book after watching this Steampunk panel that was hosted by Cory Doctorow, and featured authors Scott Westerfeld and Cherie Priest. I alreI read this book after watching this Steampunk panel that was hosted by Cory Doctorow, and featured authors Scott Westerfeld and Cherie Priest. I already read (and loved) Westerfeld's Leviathan, so I figured I would give Priest's Boneshaker a read.
Although I am glad I read it, because you can never have enough post-apocalyptic/steampunk/zombie books, I did not love it nearly as much as Leviathan, and am unsure whether I will read the next book in this series. ...more
I loved everything about this book. It picked up right where Leviathan left off, and kept its momentum through the entire book, which is no easy featI loved everything about this book. It picked up right where Leviathan left off, and kept its momentum through the entire book, which is no easy feat for the middle book in a trilogy. I cannot wait until the third book in this series comes out. Write fast, Mr. Westerfeld!...more
After reading Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, I was not excited to read anything else he wrote. Not that he wasn't an imaginative writer -- he is -- its juAfter reading Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, I was not excited to read anything else he wrote. Not that he wasn't an imaginative writer -- he is -- its just that the direction that book (and following series) took, did not interest me.
But after reading a synopsis and hearing praise for this book, I tentatively started reading it. I am glad I gave Westerfeld another chance, because this book is an improvement over Uglies in every way, and I am excited to read the next installment of this series.
The only reason I am giving it four stars and not five is that Leviathan, as a single book, didn't end so much as tail off....more
To expound: This is not a graphic novel, but it is not not a graphic novel, either. Confused? Yeah, me too. The graphicIn three words: What the fuck!?
To expound: This is not a graphic novel, but it is not not a graphic novel, either. Confused? Yeah, me too. The graphic novel segments were well drawn and interesting, although I feel as if I missed most of the literary references; If I hadn't previously read 1984 I don't think it I would have followed The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier at all. The 'Black Dossier' segments of the book that the graphic novel framed were, for the most part, unreadable. And the finale of the graphic novel was done in 3D, which you needed the included 3D glasses to read. It was utter nonsense, and reminded me of the South Park episode 'Imagination Land', and not in a good way....more
This volume picks up where the last left off, and pushes the envelope in a number of different ways -- the opening battle scene on Mars; Quartermain aThis volume picks up where the last left off, and pushes the envelope in a number of different ways -- the opening battle scene on Mars; Quartermain and Ms Murray's tryst in the woods; Hyde's punishment of the traitorous Griffin. It is a double-edged sword, as it keeps the series interesting, but also makes it seem a bit overdone at times.
That being said, it is nowhere near as overdone as the terrible movie by the same name. One of my only complaints with this comic series is that I kept expecting it to follow the movie, which I had previously seen. Thankfully, the graphic novel series is much different, and better, than the movie. I only wish I didn't have the movie in my mind to corrupt the experience of the comic....more
This was an interesting and enjoyable graphic novel, although it pales in comparison to The Watchmen -- Moore's masterpiece -- which was both deeper aThis was an interesting and enjoyable graphic novel, although it pales in comparison to The Watchmen -- Moore's masterpiece -- which was both deeper and more beautifully drawn....more