Laylah's Reviews > Whitechapel Gods

Whitechapel Gods by S.M. Peters
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's review
Jan 04, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: steampunk, gods-and-monsters
Read from January 04 to 05, 2011

Sort of at the low edge of 2.5 stars, I think.

The publishing imprint labels this "fantasy," and marketing trends would call it "steampunk," but I think it would be more accurate than either to call it body horror. The novel's clearest and most vivid descriptions are saved for the (many) instances when flesh and machine are violently, gruesomely melded, which means this is a novel that takes a strong stomach.

The industrial cancer that affects people in the story's Whitechapel, turning their bodies progressively into machines, is an obvious metaphor for the dehumanization process of the industrial age's factories generally. But it's also a metaphor for the genre-melding that's going on here: Whitechapel Gods isn't consistently magical enough for fantasy, or consistently explicable enough for sci-fi, and it lays out its evils too plainly to provoke the unsettling revelations of horror. It grinds along, powered by its unlikely mixture of blood and gears, capable of delivering power in places but much less capable of subtlety or grace.

And while the combination of industrial-era problems with otherworldly gods seems imaginative at first glance, I was disappointed at how many stale assumptions and stereotypes were incorporated into the story without critique: the traumatized young whore (the only female human character with any impact on the plot), the old Chinese woman running the opium den (the only non-white human in the story at all), the mysterious mind-altering drugs of "Far East" origin, the division of the gods' powers between male cold intellect and female unreasoning desire.

I would have liked to enjoy this more, but mostly, by the end of it, I just felt grimy and unsatisfied.
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Reading Progress

01/04/2011 page 58
15.0% "started this morning. going okay so far, as long as I don't think too hard about how the premise is supposed to work. or how predictable the token female character is. or try to picture what anybody looks like. er."
01/04/2011 page 70
18.0% "aaand we have an opium den. run by nameless Chinese women."
01/05/2011 page 284
74.0% "going to finish this, but damn I wish there was a female character in it with agency and humanity."
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by R (new)

R I'd wondered about this book, really. I'd picked it up in the store and what I'd read when I poked through it was interesting, but I got kind of that sense from this: that it might be an interesting premise with a hamfisted execution.

Laylah Yeah. It had some potential, but it was trying to do too many things plot- and genre-wise, and not enough things character-wise, so it wound up less than satisfying. Sort of a shame!
...It has a really nice cover, though.

message 3: by R (new)

R Heh, the cover was totally what snagged me. It makes me want to write all kinds of things that this book could have possibly been. :P

Laylah do iiiiittt~

(Really, the most interesting character to me was the mute knife-happy boy who reminded me of a tame Gabriel. So it's making me want to write, too. XD)

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