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Steampunk Prime: A Vintage Steampunk Reader

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3.46  ·  Rating details ·  158 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Discover original steampunk tales in this anthology of stories written before there were actual rocketships, atomic power, digital computers, or readily available electricity. The modern day steampunk genre is a reinventing of the past through the eyes of its inventors and adventures, but this collection is from real Victorians and Edwardians who saw the future potential o ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published July 1st 2010 by Nonstop Press
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MB Taylor
Finished reading Steampunk Prime (2010) edited by Mike Ashley today. Subtitled ‘A Vintage Steampunk Reader’, this is a collection of fourteen stories originally published between 1897 & 1916. Today they would be classified as science fiction, a term that had not yet been invented. Ashley selected the stories in this collection because (according to his introduction) they ‘create many of the concepts and images that have come become associated with steampunk’.

Ashley’s concept of Steampunk is
...more
Amy Sturgis
If I rated books, I'd want to give this one two separate ratings, one for content (4) and one for layout (1). As grateful as I am to see these lesser-known gems of Victorian and Edwardian science fiction gathered together in a single collection, I am in equal measure horrified by the poor production values of this volume. It seems as though someone scanned the original stories using OCR software and then never proofread the resulting text; exclamation points frequently are misrepresented as capi ...more
Lizabeth Tucker
Steampunk Prime edited by Mike Ashley

Mike Ashley has gathered together a collection of early science fiction writers, largely forgotten, who helped invent and define the steampunk sub-genre. There are 14 short stories in this collection. I would have to say that while the majority of the stories in this collection can be put clearly in the steampunk category, some are borderline and a few don’t seem to fall there at all. But I would probably put that down to everyone’s different definition of th
...more
Alessandra
Feb 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1900-1910, 1910s
Steampunk Prime: A Vintage Steampunk Reader is an interesting and peculiar collection of futuristic science stories originally published between 1897 and 1914. The science is thoroughly Victorian, and the gazing into the future is startling in what it predicts and what it presumes.

I guess the first thing I have to say is that what the stories have in common is that ... well, they're not very good, mostly. The characters are generally thin, overblown Victorian stereotypes, the prose tends to be f
...more
David Ledeboer
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I could actually hear the full, long dresses swish against the railings of airships as these intrepid passengers sped along through the clouds. I also trembled in fear along with the professor as he gazed at the misshapen, cobbled and furred automaton whirring in front of him. Had I been transported back (or forward, far, far forward) in time to an alternative Victorian world? No, I had simply immersed myself in Steampunk Prime, a collection of short stories edited by Mike Ashley.

I am certainly
...more
Richard
Great fun. There's a nice mix of stories here, from fantastic inventions to airship disasters to grand explorations into the unknown. "From Pole to Pole" has the best explanation ever for why a tunnel would run right through the Earth, and you can't get through "The Abduction of Alexandra Seine" properly without reading the dialogue out loud ("Great Heavens! Eagle Malvowley, I might have guessed it, the fiend!" cried Bowden Snell.").

Actually, the whole thing works better than I thought it would
...more
K. O'Bibliophile
An interesting look a short science-fiction stories written during the Victorian era--capitalizing on the popularity of steampunk, but also reminding us how different the real era was.

It's a good look at how culture has changed, just by seeing what kind of vision of the future if popular. Most of those type of stories tell us that according to Victorian sci-fi writers in general:
*Women were always the weaker sex, mostly gentle even through their intellect, and preferring to have a man to shelter
...more
Steve
Dec 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of "vintage steampunk" stories; in other words, stories that were actually written in the late 1800's to early 1900's. It is an interesting concept, but it doesn't really hold up since very few of the stories have any kind of steampunk feel. They are just science fiction stories that happened to be written in a certain time period and about half take place well in the future of the steampunk era, and others are on themes such as alien invasion that don't inherently fit into steampun ...more
Jukka
Steampunk Prime - Mike Ashley (editor)

This is really fun and thought provoking to consider. Don't expect the 'level' of the literature to be profound, these short stories were found in magazines done by 'B' writers. But the choices are great in that it shows a vanguard from a very interesting period at the century change in 1900, a favorite period of mine. If you want you can find the heavy hitters like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne yourself.

The stories here i like the most: In the Deep of Time, Th
...more
Emma Thompson
This is a collection of stories written in the era steampunk extrapolates from selected from the old sci-fi magazines. It's fascinating just for that and I did enjoy reading it. There were some lovely stories in here, "The Automaton" and "The plague of lights" stand out in my memory as good strong stories. "The plague of lights" in particular was a favourite.

The problem was, I feel that a lot of the stories chosen haven't aged well, and a few were too plot focused for me. Nothing turns me of qui
...more
Lorna
What did the writers of a hundred years ago and more envisage as they looked into the future? Some authors have left lasting works we are all familiar with - War of the Worlds, for example, or The First Men in the Moon. But there is a wealth of other stories from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, less well known, but still exploring the same themes.

There is a growing enthusiasm at the moment for the genre known as 'steampunk', not just in its literary form but also in the visual
...more
Oleksandr Zholud
I have to admit, I don’t know much about steampunk, it became popular roughly at the same time when I got a multi-year hiatus from reading fiction at all. However, I’ve read a few old speculative fiction books (1900-1950s) so it was not totally novel for me. The anthology collects texts from the early 1900s, often prior to radio invention or Wright brothers flight. Therefore, it shows future quite different from the one in even 1920s books. As Yogi Berra said “The future is not what it used to b ...more
Robert Stewart
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have to agree with most of the negative points other reviewers haven mentioned. The bad editing of the OCR copy goes beyond simple typos. I've come across sentences that have have been garbled.

Also, the writing itself leaves a lot to be desired. It's mostly of the sort found in the mass-market magazines of the time.

That said, I found Ashley's introduction and his set-ups for each of the stories very informative. If you want to find out what sorts of futuristic speculations readers of the
...more
Aaron
Jul 11, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: steampunk
While all the stories were written during the Victorian era, not all the stories were steampunk, unless a very loose definition is applied. To be honest, many of the stories are poorly written and boring, BUT, I really lovedlovedloved Mr. Ashley's commentary about the authors, their stories and why he chose to include said story in this anthology. That was, by far, the best part of this novel. I'd give his insight and historical knowledge 5 STARS, the stories get 2 STARS.

I appreciate his researc
...more
Carolyn
May 07, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-sf
A collection of short stories published in the 1890s-early 1900s that show the historical roots of the Steampunk theme, this was more fascinating to me as a historian than a fiction reader. Before writers worked on our fears of nuclear energy, they considered the perils of electricity run amok. For the most part the plots are pretty thin, but I love the Victorian/Edwardian visions of the future where airships are made of silk, celluloid and aluminum, and Wisconsin is the base for a planetary tel ...more
Aaron Poorman
A genre that has always interested me ; to imagine that all of these stories were written so long ago is really something. (late 1890's - 1916) I have to admit that I wasn't exactly in love with any of these short stories in particular but the collection as a whole does show just how imaginative humans can be, and for that I appreciated them. Maybe the characters or conclusions didn't blow me away but the concepts and ideas were what made this and helped spawn what is one of my favorite sub-genr ...more
Bryan Schmidt
Sep 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best anthologies I've read ever. Most of the stories are outstanding, all are fascinating for their worldview and views of science and the future. If you love Verne and Wells, this is especially a don't miss. Rich period detail, some interesting scientific conjecture, and good writing. The stories are everything from action adventure to mystery. Thoroughly enjoyable. I'll post a more detailed review soon.
Charles
Mar 10, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dissappointment
This is good for anyone that likes the writings of 100 years ago. I do not. The language usage is much different, and I have never had a taste for the aged tales, though the stories are there, the writing is difficult to get through. A good collection for anyone who enjoys this type of fare, however, not for me.
August Bourré
A collection of largely forgotten SF pieces and authors that is largely justly forgotten.

Also not super impressed by the poor book design (narrow margins/gutters, etc) and the large number of typos (perhaps caused by a not-thorough-enough copy edit after importing most of these from OCR'd documents--not sure if that's how they got these pieces, but it seems most likely).
Tim Hicks
Two stars or even one, really, but I added some for historical value.
Most of these stories are really quite dreadful, and even allowing for the science of the time it's a stretch to call it "science" fiction.
U.S. Tea Party science, maybe. Mostly handwaving and sensationalism and wild extrapolation.

There were some good stories written in that era, but these aren't they.
Raving Redcoat
As with most short story collections, these stories range in quality. What makes this book absolutely invaluable to "Steampunk" fans is that instead of imitations of Victorian science fiction, this is a collection of actual Victorian/Edwardian science fiction, social baggage and all.
Danielle
Very cool, more from a historical perspective than anything else. It was interesting to see actual Victorian visions of the future--some whimsical, some dark--and analyze them as reflections of the time. Neat experience.
Xiv
Nov 17, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The book had great stories to start but lost its charm from the middle onwards
Ashley
eeeh it wasn't what I expected.
Kammy
Jan 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed it, but it wasn't always fully engaging. It was nice to find out where some of my sci-fi books came from.
Bubba
Aug 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


Also very resource full and very knowledgeable love the short stories
A Voracious Reader (a.k.a. Carol)
Ok, I guess I'm not much of a steampunk fan. I didn't care for any of the stories in this anthology.
Estott
Jan 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pleasant, lightweight. I have the Barnes & Noble reprint- attractive but outrageously padded in bulk with full page illustration and thick paper stock.
Susan
Not for me. Thought I'd like at least a few of the stories but didn't like any I started.
Mary
Mar 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: steampunk
Most of the stories were very good.
And since they were all written between 1880 and 1914 it was interesting to compare what they were writing about with what has actually come to pass since then.
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Michael Raymond Donald Ashley is the author and editor of over sixty books that in total have sold over a million copies worldwide. He lives in Chatham, Kent.
More about Mike Ashley...

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