Another book worth mentioning, Extraordinary Engines, a steampunk anthology edited by Nick Gevers. I saw this on the shelf in Borders last time I was there and thought it looked rad. I particularly enjoy short stories after writing something long and involved, as it helps to relieve some mental pressure build-up, so it was good timing after Nano.
This one shares that quality typical amongst well-done anthologies– all the stories are good, but not every person is going to love every story. Inevitably, however, they will love enough to make it worth their $7-12. This is the reason I love anthologies– I’m always very curious to know which ones will strike my fancy, and even the ones I’m not into are worth it, since they make me branch out.
Also, I like steampunk. I’ve been messing around with the idea of a clockpunk/epic fantasy type thing for a few months now, I like it so much. (Yes, really. Don’t ask, I don’t know, it seemed like a good idea at the time.) I like the expected Very-Victorian-London ones just as much as the unexpected Wild-West-American ones and the Cracky-Other-World-Fantasy-or-Skiffy ones. Another good reason to pick this thing up, if you like different flavors. So 2-3 sentences about each story, I think, and you can decide if it sounds interesting or not.
Steampunch by James Lovegrove -
A good one to draw you in at first– mechanical boxers, what more do you need to know? I liked the PoV in particular, the old timer telling us a story as we get off the transport. It’s more skiffy than some of the others, which is fun, and has a cool ending, too.
Static by Marly Youmans -
Rad world concept, with everything charged with static electricity. Beautifully written, carefully rendered, but in general if there’s not a lot of plot in a story, I need to at least like one of the characters. I’m a philistine like that.
Speed, Speed the Cable by Kage Baker -
Featuring Bell-Fairfax from Baker’s Company series. This is one of the excellent Victorian adventure-type tales in these books, one of my favorite manifestations of the genre (not to mention that it’s pretty much The Classic). Very fun.
Elementals by Ian R. MacLeod -
Industrial Revolution theoretical/supernatural stuff that messes with your head. The awesome pseudo-scientific elements put it squarely in my field of interest, but this really is one of the most engrossing tales in the collection. I read it on the Metro going back and forth to the District and was very worried I’d miss my stop.
Machine Maid by Margo Lanagan -
More head-screwing, this time from the Aussie frontier camp. I was dreadfully uncomfortable almost the entire time reading this, and I enjoyed it for that. The title says a lot, but there are also issues of unwanted marriages and repressed intellect at work.
Lady Witherspoon’s Solution by James Morrow -
More excellent pseudo-science. This one is a decided and guiltily delightful rip on attitudes of sex and race in an upper-class Victorian world– things that have always fascinated me (since they strike us now as hilarious). The characters are my favorite kinds: the ones you like when you know you shouldn’t. Loved it.
Hannah by Kieth Brooke -
One of the more overtly dark offerings, murder and mad science. It’s short and packs a punch, atmospherically falling somewhere between a Sherlock Holmes mystery and Frankenstein horror. Nicely done, and left a cold impression on me.
Petrolpunk by Adam Roberts -
More high adventure in alternate realities, centered in London. It took me about five pages to really get into it, just because the narrative is inexplicably thick and I thought “God, this is trying too hard.” But once I was adjusted to the voice, I had a great time with the whole mad story.
American Cheetah by Robert Reed -
Hard for me not to love a story (sort of) involving one of my historical fascinations, Abe Lincoln. It’s not the snappiest plot, but it’s so well done I didn’t mind in the least, and the superimposing of some of Lincoln’s habits and philosophizing tendencies was really brilliantly carried off. I got a kick out of it.
Fixing Hanover by Jeff VanderMeer -
An inventor hiding from his past in a relatively idyllic, hidden island town after he washed up on their shore. The excellence of this one is in the unfolding of the backstory and the delicate immediacy of the prose (I swear I could smell salt water the whole time). Unsurprising, considering the source, but there it is.
The Lollygang Save the World on Accident by Jay Lake -
As entertaining as you’d expect. The plot isn’t complicated or even much at all, but the fabulous world of the Big Pipe’s society and technology, and the accidental heroism of Per are more than enough to make it a great read. Also, the man just has a way with words that makes the strangest things seem beautiful.
The Dream of Reason by Jeffrey Ford -
I am going to find some of this guy’s books like, yesterday. Otherworldly steampunk and my beloved pseudo-science. When I say otherworldly I do mean it in both senses of the word; it’s both taking place somewhere Else, rather than being alternate history, and it’s ethereal, dreamlike. One of my favorites.
And that’s my much-more-than-two-cents on the subject.