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Aurorarama Hardcover – August 31, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935554131
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935554134
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,246,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Illustrations from Aurorarama
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Title page A Panorama of New Venice "He drew a curtain aside..." "...the disused Pneumatic subway line"

From Bookmarks Magazine

Described as “gloriously retro literary steampunk” (Guardian), something like “what Jules Verne would write if woken from the dead and offered a dose of mushrooms” (National), Aurorarama captivated the critics from start to end. As it slowly unravels its secrets through Orsini’s and d’Allier’s alternating perspectives, the narrative “glides on silver skates from the surreal to the absurd to the languorously decadent” (, balancing a stylish, suspenseful thriller with eccentric characters, sly humor, and a vivid and alluring setting. bemoaned Valtat’s flat female characters and the National cited some of the pitfalls of world building, but these complaints didn’t diminish the charms of New Venice. A sophisticated and literate page-turner, Aurorarama should have a wide appeal among many readers.

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Customer Reviews

The prose possesses a lyrical beauty and elegance uncommon in contemporary fiction.
K. Sullivan
The author's pseudo-literary style just ended up sounding stilted and pretentious, and the meandering plot was impossible to follow.
Nolite 17
You'll go back a few chapters thinking you've missed something important, but, no, you didn't miss anything at all.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Jean-Christophe Valtat's perplexing, yet beguiling, new novel "Aurorarama" may be one of the more difficult titles I've attempted to review. On one hand, I'm not entirely sure that the narrative makes sense. But on the other, I'm not sure that it matters. The prose is so fluid and intriguing that I was swept up in the language and imagery that Valtat was serving up even as the head-scratching plot twists unfolded. Part political treatise, part religious allegory--this novel blends elements of science fiction and fantasy into a setting rooted firmly in the past. A mass of fascinating contradictions, I was thoroughly captivated by the strange fictional world populating an Arctic city circa 1908 called New Venice.

The principle characters are Brentford Orsini and Gabriel d'Allier. While friends, their stories are told and tend to overlap in alternating chapters. Both have been close to the political heart of New Venice and both, in varying degrees of involvement, have become entrenched in the rebellion that has formed within the underbelly of the city. With Eskimo outlaws, a secret police force, a strange unexplained airship hovering over the city, visions and mysticism, magic and hypnotism--and lest I leave out my personal favorite, a ventriloquist's dummy with a nasty bite--Valtat's surrealism is part poetry, part lunacy.

I suspect "Aurorarama" will be a polarizing volume--you'll love its lyricism or you'll say "What the heck????" I really, really enjoyed the writing--the flow, the feel, the evocative nature that is created. But that said, I can't honestly say that I would recommend the book to very many people. It seems almost like a literary experiment that should be admired for its ambitions as opposed to a work to be universally embraced.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David Keymer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Aurorarama is the first in a projected series of fantasy novels set in New Venice, a fictitious luxury city that is "the pearl of the Arctic." The action takes place in just-post-Victorian times: the city is home to the sybaritic super-rich and their servants and ruthlessly controlled by a sinister Council of Seven and their thug police, the Gentlemen of the Night. Outside the city lurk the last native Inuit, who alternately avoid the city and intrude upon it --to mock it? Exploit its inhabitants? or simply because they don't get it that they've been shamelessly exploited and are still being so?

Aurorarama is not so much a novel as a phantasmagoria. It is a nightmare vision expressed in over-the-top eloquence that is vaguely reminiscent of the language of the great Gormenghast fantasy novels of Mervin Peake (Titus Groan, etc.). The Edgar-Allan-Poe-vian plotting and language of this book remind me of how I felt when I first read G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday. Here's an example, but one has to read enough of this book to be caught up in its style and the propulsion of its plotting to appreciate it fully. Still, here's an example: "New Venice ... was the quintessence of what Mankind was about ... the single-mindedness of surviving at all costs, even if it meant eating up the rotting corpses of your friends, and a certain sense of the grandiloquent gesture and gratuitous ornament." The author's exotic, fin-de-siecle prose style uses extensive similes that sometimes work (on the abrupt departure of a sinister magician: "He heard his steps cascading down the stairs, like an avalanche of poisoned apples, and the door slammed shut.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. Jacobs VINE VOICE on August 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an odd little steampunk novel set in the frozen northern city of New Venice. It is heavy on description and atmosphere, somewhat light on plot, and I'm not sure how it ends (the ARC I received was most unhelpfully missing the last five chapters). Warning: mild spoilers follow.

New Venice is an interesting place, and you really can't blame Mr. Valtat for spending so much time talking about it. Its seedy underworld is the habitat of Gabriel, a college professor and drug addict whose adventures alternate between the hilarious, the sordid, and the heartbreaking. His friend Brentford spends his time in more respectable surroundings (or not, depending on your point of view), so we also get to see the workings of New Venice's government and military, which topic isn't actually as dry as that description makes it sound. Throw in two dead women who won't stay dead, some magic, various types of interaction with the native Inuit, an oppressive police force, and the author's mischievous sense of humor, and you've got a pretty entertaining story, all told. Gabriel is by far the best thing about the novel, an addled jerk who is literally (but not cheesily) transformed by the power of love.

The book's weaknesses are its narrow take on its female characters (the ones who aren't dead are harpies or sex toys, sometimes hypnotized sex toys) and its extremely peculiar English, obviously written by someone who is not a native speaker of the language. I assume the more glaring errors will be corrected by the time this novel hits bookstore shelves, but getting through all the linguistic quirks and mistakes was a chore and I doubt a copyeditor will have time to fix everything.

If you enjoy steampunk novels, or you're just looking for something different, I'd recommend you give it a try.
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