Mari Biella's Reviews > The Steampunk Trilogy

The Steampunk Trilogy by Paul Di Filippo
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Feb 28, 12

bookshelves: 19th-century, fantasy, steampunk, sci-fi
Read from February 23 to 28, 2012

A glance at the front cover of this book lets you know what you’re in for: a weird, wonderful and occasionally disturbing race through a fantastically alternative Victorian Age. The young Queen Victoria absconds from Buckingham Palace shortly before her Coronation, and is replaced by a human–newt hybrid; New England is threatened by a mythical sea creature, and can only be saved by a prejudiced Swiss scientist; and Emily Dickinson falls for Walt Whitman, and accompanies him on a strange voyage through the Afterlife.

You’ve got to admire di Filippo’s glorious imagination: I mean, where did he get ideas like these from? It’s all so outlandish that it’s something of a tribute to his writing skills that he manages to get away with it. You even manage to suspend your disbelief on occasion, and it’s all great fun in any case.

While I enjoyed 'Victoria' and 'Hottentots', I think it’s with 'Walt and Emily' that di Filippo really hits his stride. Perhaps it’s because the strangeness and the relentless pace of the first two stories let up for long enough to let the characters really shine through: the nervous, lonely Dickinson is both charming and poignant, the hearty Whitman perfect both as her foil and her soulmate. In fact, this strange fictional love affair is so enticing in its own right that I found myself wishing that the weird backdrop against which it is set — a pseudo–scientific exploration of the spirit world — would take up less space, thus allowing the love story to take precedence. But then I am a drippy romantic at heart …

Tremendous entertainment.
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