Amy Sturgis's Reviews > Infernal Devices

Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter
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's review
Jun 21, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: 20th-century, science-fiction-contemporary, steampunk
Read from June 24 to July 07, 2012

This is one of the pioneering works of steampunk, and I'm glad I read it. It has many of the staples of the subgenre, from the Victorian setting to clockwork men, from time travel to not-so-mythical creatures (in this case, selkies). There are several well-crafted moments of ironic social commentary. It's easy to see how this wry and imaginative tale helped to set precedents for what followed.

That said, I didn't really enjoy this as a reading experience, despite Jeter's always-elegant prose. The narrator, who inherited his father's watchmaker's store but not the man's talent for imaginative clockwork inventions, remains passive and rather baffled throughout the action. The parade of characters he encounters are colorful, but none are exactly sympathetic enough to evoke an attachment. The tone was a bit too flippant for my taste, as well; it's hard to take the danger seriously when the story doesn't take itself seriously.

For most of the novel, the episodic adventures/perils are unexplained and meant to be mysterious, but they didn't engage me quite enough to leave me wondering how they fit together. Ironically, in the eleventh hour, when the "infodump" portion of the novel connected all the dots, I discovered the underlying story was far more interesting than I'd realized. By that time, of course, the novel was drawing to a close.

I love Jeter's Morlock Night, and I'm sure I'll reread it in the future. I appreciate Infernal Devices for its impact and legacy, but I doubt I'll revisit it for anything more than the insights it provides into the history of steampunk.
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Reading Progress

10.0% "Quite a different vibe from "Morlock Night" (which I loved), but still the same compelling writing."
30.0% "The denizens of Wetwick, it seems, have the "Innsmouth look.""
70.0% "This isn't the delight to me that Jeter's Morlock Night was, but I definitely see how it helped to pioneer and shape the steampunk subgenre."
85.0% "Wow. This is good. Why did it wait so long to take this turn?"
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