Stephen's Reviews > Changeless

Changeless by Gail Carriger
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Mar 27, 2011

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bookshelves: audiobook, need-to-buy, punked, romantical, 2006-2010, alternative-history, science-fantasy, fang-bangers, were-is-the-wolf, ghosts, mystery, comfort-food
Read from March 25 to 28, 2012 — I own a copy

Ahhhhhhhh...this was just what I needed. After suffering a cerebral edema brought on by “big idea” overload from reading Macrolife: A Mobile Utopia (review to come), this breezy, charming comfort read was the perfect curative to alleviate the swelling in my brain pan.

While tagged as a constituent of the paranormal romance genre (one of the few that holds little interest for me), I think this series (through the first two at least) is more aptly described as an Austenesque comedy of manners...with gentlemen monsters and shadings of steampunk. Therein lies part of the reason why I enjoy this series so darn much, it allows me to exercise my love of all things Austen in a setting that appeals to the speculative fiction fanboy in me.

Plus...it's just really good.

BACKGROUND:

Set in an alternative London, where Queen Victoria reigns by virtue of the support of vampire hives and werewolf clans, who, collectively, make up the aristocracy of England. The political and financial power of the fang-bangers and the mutt-faces are held in check largely by: (1) their own deep-seated animosity towards one another and (2) the existence of slick steampunk technology developed by both the government and quasi-secret shadow societies whose raison d'etre is protecting humanity from the immense power of the supernaturals.

Gail Carriger deserves large chunks of kudos for developing a world that holds together and makes sense in the context of her story. The numerous checks and balances on the power of the much stronger, immortal supernaturals easily passes the smell test and satisfies the prerequisites for allowing the necessary suspension of disbelief. More varieties of kudos for Gail below, but I wanted to bestow credit for this, as it's an area where too many stories like this fall flat.

Our main character, Alexia Tarabotti, is a preternatural (aka a “soulless”), an extremely rare species of "more than human," whose lack of a soul causes her to negate any supernatural force with which she comes in physical contact. Thus, when touched by Alexia, both vampires and werewolves (who both have an excess amount of soul) will become completely human and subject to all the dangers of mortality. This tends to complicate things for her as she married the "alpha" of the most powerful werewolf clan in London at the end of the previous book.

Now, as Lady Maccon, preternatural problem solver and advisor to Queen Victoria, Alexia is, put simply, the WOMAN.

PLOT SUMMARY:

A strange plague is loose in London that is causing all of the supernaturals to become, well, natural. The condition appears to be identical to the effect that soulless have on the supernatural, except that it is affecting a large geographical area and no physical contact appears necessary. Without the furries and fang-faces, the government could not maintain power, and so Alexia is charged by Queen Victoria to solve the mystery.

That's enough to give you the big picture, but there is quite a bit more going on.

THOUGHTS:

The story is good, the world building is entertaining and consistent, and the inclusion of elements of steampunkery is a treat, especially Alexia's "James Bond" parasol, whose multi-purpose specifications would make Oswald Cobblepot green with envy.

But, as good as those garnishes are, the two ingredients that make this series a real pleasure for me are Alexia Tarabotti's character and Gail Carriger's prose. Alexia is a woman who’d be right at home in a Jane Austen novel. She's intelligent, self-assured, eminently capable and has a tongue/wit combo that can shred an ego at 50 paces. She owns the scene when she’s present and makes my cockles warm and steamy. Plus, she passes all of my “dad” tests for a great female character so I plan to introduce her to my older princess as well.

And Gail Carriger's prose is a delight. While no one can match the lashing, snarky hilariousness of Ms. Austen, Carriger provides a wonderful dose of Austeneque atmosphere and dialogue that kept me engaged throughout. From delicious words like folderol, balderdash and coxcomb, to stylish, snappy banter emanating from above corsets and below top hats. Carrier creates a cozy mood infected with clever that kept me smiling pretty consistently.

All told, it was a wonderful rollick that kept me entertained. This is the only series of its type that I currently follow (which says something of its appeal) and I intend to continue on to the next adventure of the parasol protectorate.

3.5 stars. Recommended.
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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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message 1: by Kate (new)

Kate I really need to get around to reading this series.


Stephen It's really good, Kate. I think it has cross appeal to a wider audience than most books included in the genre.


message 3: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus *pats foot waiting for Macrolife: A Mobile Utopia review*


Stephen Richard wrote: "*pats foot waiting for Macrolife: A Mobile Utopia review*"

George Zebrowski is one of those brilliant SF writers that doesn't seem to get as much love (even I have only read Macrolife). However, even before you read this, you should check out his collection of short fiction called Swift Thoughts of which I have only read the first 3 stories. My review is not very good, but the sample that I read were all gut-punches and brain stimulators. I am going to re-read/finish the book and do a proper review but take a look and see if it appeals. I think he may become a new favorite.


message 5: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Swift Thoughts is on its way to my library, thanks for the rec...these days it's hard to resist the lure of SFnal goodness, isn't it? Some of the very best writing being done now is in the genre.

Desolation Road and its sequel Ares Express are examples, as is River of Gods and Cyberabad Days...just flat-out brilliant stuff...and mainstream litrachooer is mired in pointless pyrotechnical pablum purveying pastiches of paladins passed.

No, thanks.


Stephen I loved River of Gods and intend to re-read and properly review before moving on to Cyberabad Days. I have been meaning to get to Desolation Road and will try and make time for it.

I can't wait to hear what you think of the first two stories in Swift Thoughts, "The Eichmann Variations" and "The Word Sweep."


message 7: by Nilesh (new)

Nilesh Kashyap I don't believe it. What happened to the pictures?


Dija I've always felt this is one of the rare paranormal series out there that would appeal to male readers but you're actually the first I've come across. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. There's going to be another interesting character soon who's almost as delightful as Alexia.


message 9: by Stephen (last edited Mar 28, 2012 06:08PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Stephen Nilesh wrote: "I don't believe it. What happened to the pictures?"

They'll be back soon, Nilesh. I gave them day off as they seemed tired and overworked. :)


Stephen Dija wrote: "I've always felt this is one of the rare paranormal series out there that would appeal to male readers but you're actually the first I've come across. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. There's going to b..."

That is great to hear, Dina. I'm certainly enjoying this so far and it is nice to hear that the next books are good as well.


message 11: by mark (new) - rated it 2 stars

mark monday i enjoyed this one from time to time, but it also gave me cavities. not sure i will be moving beyond the second book in the series.


Shifra My sentiments (almost) exactly!


message 13: by Maira (new) - added it

Maira What a great review. I enjoyed it as much as I did the first installment of this series. Thank you Stephen


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