Paperback, 432 pages
Published October 5th 2012 by Tachyon Publications
Source: E-galley provided by the publisher
Playfully mashing up the romantic elegance of the Victorian era with whimsically modernized technology, this entertaining and edgy new anthology is the third installment in a bestselling steampunk series. Featuring a renegade collective of writers and artists—from beloved legends to rising talents—the steam-driven past is rebooted and powered by originality, wit, and adventure. Lev Grossman offers a different take on the Six Million Dollar Man who possesses appendages and workings from recycled metal parts, yet remains fully human, resilient, and determined. Catherynne M. Valente explores a new form of parenting within the merging of man and machine while Cherie Priest presents a new, unsettling mode of transportation. Bruce Sterling introduces steampunk’s younger cousin, salvage-punk, while speculating on how cities will be built in the future using preexisting materials and Jeff VanderMeer takes an antisteampunk perspective as a creator must turn his back on an utterly destructive creation. Going beyond the simple realms of corsets and goggles, this engaging collection takes readers on a wild ride through Victoriana and beyond.
Steampuk III: Steampunk Revolution is an anthology brimming with glimpses of lives and worlds as diverse as reality. While all the stories have substance to them, I will review the ones that spoke to me in some way or other.
“Mother is a Machine” by Catherynne M. Valente
As is Valente’s style, this short story is vivid, provocative and disturbing. It takes a moment for the reader to situate herself in the narrative, find her ground, figure out who is what and what’s happening but once that is done, there is a definite thrill – this short story for all its briefness, speaks volumes about being human. About being inhuman. I finished reading and sat for a while just mulling over what I had read and now, days later I can still pull up the details in my mind as fresh as though I had read them yesterday.
“Possession” by Ben Peek
This was heartbreaking in a lot of different ways. The main character finds a woman, a “Returned,” as she is called due to her body being integrated with mechanical parts. This woman, Rachel, has lived for a long time and seen many things, too many things. The short story etches the last few moments of her life when she and Eliana, the main character, find each other, form a friendship of sorts and a connection. Beautiful and tragic.
“An Exhortation to Young Writers (Advice Tendered by Poor Mojo’s Giant Squid)” – David Erik Nelson, Morgan Johnson and Fritz Swanson
This short story was more light hearted and featured a series of “texts” from a anthropomorphized giant squid who tenders advice to his readers in the midst of his own adventure. There is danger galore and threats of being turned into squid soup. The story is amusing and fast paced. I liked it.
“A Handful of Rice” – Vandana Singh
We move on to India where there is much discussion of prana, brotherhood and kings. At once foreign and familiar, this tale gives a glimpse of a world populated by colour, passion and peace. Contradictory and thought provoking.
“The Effluent Engine” – N. K. Jemisin
This story presents fascinating narratives about colour, race and colonization. Haiti with its freed slaves have constructed for themselves a country and they are determined to keep their freedom. This story gives us a brief glimpse of the desperate measures people will take where liberty is concerned. This was a bit spoiled for me however by the excessive attention to romance. I’m strange that way.
“To Follow the Waves” by Amal El-Mohtar
This one details the lengths one woman goes to find (and perhaps experience) another woman she saw for just a short second. Her love, if it can be called that, manifests itself in beautiful ways. She constructs dreams from precious stones and I found this new mythology definitely intriguing.
“Peace in Our Time” – Garth Nix
This was quite easily my favourite story of the bunch. I love Garth Nix’s writing and this short story with its lingering imagery and characters will stay with me for a very long time.
“White Fungus “ by Bruce Sterling
A story set in a post-apocalyptic world that details how a man tries to reclaim the land and along the way, love a woman who is not very keen on being loved. It was interesting though not my favourite.
There are also nonfiction articles on steampunk and I found those to be quite illuminating. On the whole, this anthology delivers and should keep an avid lover of all things steampunk entertained for a long time. I recommend reading one story at a time and not several in one go as these stories, though short, carry a lot of depth that need to be savored and absorbed slowly. I recommend this to those who like short stories and love steampunk. You won’t regret giving this one a try.