Chris's Reviews > Steampunk

Steampunk by Jeff VanderMeer
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's review
Jan 13, 2010

really liked it
Read in February, 2010

If it wasn't obvious from the outset, this is a collection of short stories and excerpts (and, in my humble opinion, a few vignettes) from the "steampunk" genre of fiction, across several variations. Some of the stories fit neatly into the clockwork-machines-with-Victorian-manners archetype, but many stray from that, expanding what "steampunk" defines itself as. In any case, it's good stuff.

Warlord Of The Air - forgettable. I hear that the full novel is pretty good?

Lord Kelvin's Machine - The concept was okay, but too much of it was crammed into too few pages. This seemed very pure steampunk: some sort of industrial-revolution-badassery widget to accomplish some goal.

The Giving Mouth - Fascinating. While not heavy on the steam or the punk, aside fron allutions to "liveiron," this created a very interesting world wrapping around a mesmerizing narrative. I'm still not sure what the subtext really is, I'd have to read it again, but the dreariness is so apparent, that when the resolution spews forth, it hammers home succinctly. This story is one of the best of the set.

A Sun In The Attic - I liked the world that was conjured up here, and I'd be interested to read more about that. The story was ok, another brief one, but the world itself is 100% steampunk, only this time matriarchial arche-feminist, which the author works nicely.

The God-Clown Is Near - Vignette, but I do enjoy it when authors create new natural sciences in worlds similar to ours. The idea here, about biological creations not unlike designing and creating a clock from metal scraps, was cool to read about. No idea what the God-Clown actually meant, but I'm not sure that the end result was the real focus.

The Steam Man Of The Prairie And The Dark Rider Get Down - When the editors say "not for the squeamish," they should have included "or anyone who wants to read some rather sick stuff." I liked the short-story idea, but the author must have just come off of a marathon set of grindhouse snuff-films, because some of it was just over the top. There was a little need for how gross some of the descriptions were, or what the Dark Rider does and how. I mean, honestly, none of it advanced the plot to a measurable degree. It really ruined the story. Maybe that was the point?

The Selene Gardening Society - Great dialogue, so-so story.

Seventy-Two Letters - Loved it. Another narrative where a new natural science is created, in this case a nigh-theological lexical natural science, which was very cool. The author takes the new science, that a specific set of letters, imparting a name, can impart character to an inanimate object, to many steps ahead: social implications, theological implications, and even philosophical ones. The author writes as though the science, nomenclature, is matter-of-fact and that the reader takes it at face value, which I like. Not only did this get into the science of it (steam), but also very much into debate over the uses (punk). One of the best of the bunch.

The Martian Agent - Skipped it. Read the first page, lost interest.

Victoria - Read the first 10 pages, skipped it.

Reflected Light - Well written, but a true vignette: brief, nothing really happened, and no resolution to the one point of interest in the last few sentences. Strange to include this piece.

Minutes Of The Last Meeting - Interesting, the IIE system reminds me some of the Eagle Eye in the eponymous movie, more or less. This falls heavily into the nano-steam-punk genre.

Excerpt Of The Third And Last Volume Of Tribes Of The Pacific Coast - Neal Stephenson, Yes! Great way to cap off the anthology, even though this one is brief. It follows in the same universe as The Diamond Age (which is a future-post-cyber-nano-steam-punk), although taking place some time later than the events of Diamond Age. Colonel Napier and PhyrePhox both make appearances, though, which is of note. This may be one of the Top Three of the set, although I am heavily biased.

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