Kathryn's Reviews > Infernal Devices

Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter
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May 08, 11

bookshelves: netgalley-or-first-reads, steampunk, artificial-intelligence, fantasy
Read from March 30 to May 06, 2011

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 and 4 stars and will probably settle upon 4 stars if only to not risk dissuasion. As Jeff VanderMeer points out in the epilogue of this new edition, Jeter is not a writer of steampunk fiction. He is a writer of dark science fiction who happened to write something now considered steampunk. I have no experience with Jeter's other works but I hope to change that. Essentially, the issues I had with this book had nothing to do with the steampunk characteristics.

At the top of my list, I felt zero connection to the main character. I could not have cared less what happened to him. He sounded so put out through most of the story.

I also felt buried in the wordiness of the book. I could have skipped whole paragraphs and my knowledge of the story would not have been lessened.

I am also not a fan of the story within a story technique used more than once in this book. I have often been indifferent to this but it felt as simple information-dump and lacked finesse.

What I did love were the majority of the secondary characters. They were all quite crazy and unique. My favorite was Scape. I loved how Jeter managed to convincingly portray a character in Victorian times who spoke American vernacular. And the image of Scape and his flying machine will stick with me.

The Brown Leather Man, well, I can not say anything about him without providing spoilers. Suffice it say that I tally his character in the plus column as well.

This is a must read for anyone who enjoys steampunk fiction, whether as a first foray into the genre or for avid fans. This novel deserves greater recognition and the reissue.
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