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Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology Mass Market Paperback – September 30, 2008

3.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

 

Nick Gevers is a South African science fiction editor and critic, whose work has appeared in The Washington Post Book World, Interzone, Scifi.com, SF Site, The New York Review of Science Fiction and Nova Express. He writes two monthly review columns for Locus magazine, and is editor at the British independent press, PS Publishing; he also edits the quarterly genre fiction magazine, Postscripts.

 

 

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Solaris (September 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844166007
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844166008
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 4.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,048,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James Higgins on March 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
I have to admit I was a little leery of picking up `Extraordinary Engines', one of two steampunk anthologies released in 2008. I had read the VanderMeers' `Steampunk' collection and came away from it a bit underwhelmed. But unlike the VanderMeer's anthology, which was a collection of previously published material, `Engines' features all new tales specifically commissioned for the book. So I decided to spend my $7.99 and see what editor Nick Gevers has wrought. It's rare to find an anthology that contains a preponderance of noteworthy entries, but I'm always willing to see what an editor new to the field can accomplish.

`Engines' contains 13 Steampunk and steam-fantasy entries; the authors are all well-published. Some, such as Ian MacLeod and Jay Lake, also are contributors to the VanderMeer's book.

The best stories are:

`Machine Maid', by Margo Lanagan, is at once amusing, and quietly vicious. The nameless first person narrator is a newlywed prim Victorian housewife, who joins her husband at his ranch in the Australian Outback. She discovers (to her shock and dismay) that the house's resident robotic maid `Clarissa' has been programmed to perform...rather Unique duties. Her loathing for her husband is redoubled, and this may have consequences for Clarissa's new domestic chores...

`Hannah', by Keith Brooke, provides a gaslight-inspired mix of murder mystery and horror. At the scene of a murder, a scientist embarks on a nascent Victorian version of C.S.I. by conducting forensic examinations on traces of blood and tissue. Will his findings bring him closer to the identity of the murderer, or will they tell him more than he wants to know about the identity of the victim ?
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Highlights here are Lucius Shepard (always good, though my favorite of his remains Life During Wartime), Michael Moorcock (so much of his writing has at least the feel of steampunk to it), and Paul Di Filippo (who I wasn't as familiar with) contributions. Quite a good book of science fiction with the theme of steampunk very broadly construed.

I mean, it's easy for the steampunk label to become simply goggles, brass lamps, a zeppelin in the background, and Edwardian lingerie. And maybe that's what folks are looking for, but the best of science fiction truly merits the title speculative fiction. Not all of the pieces are excellent, but that's also par for a themed collection. You get a feel for the writing of a batch of authors and can pursue their individual works if you're interested.
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The stories in this book are not your "steam-enshrouded goths in ridiculous clothes mounted on unlikely machines with outlandish names" fayre, as can be found infesting the Amazon Kindle store.

Personally, I wouldn't have labelled some of them "Steampunk" at all on first look as they were so subtly executed that the Steampunk elements were unobtrusive, while others featured bog-standard outrageous Steampunk tropes tangled in stories of exquisite cleverness.

Yes, folks, the Steampunk trappings aren't the point in most of these, rather what the Steampunk trappings mean to the people living with them (with the possible exception of one story in which the point-of-view character *is* what would usually be a Steampunk trapping).

I am, however, a life-long SF short story consuming reader of some fiftymumble years and I found a number of the offerings between these covers startling or refreshing, and all of them were entertaining.

Did I need to suspend my disbelief just a bit more precariously than I care to usually? Yes, very much so in one case. Was it worth the trouble? Always.

All the stories are excellent, and make me wish I was back in my native England so I could easily find these fine authors on bookshop shelves. I can't recommend them highly enough.

Buy and read this book if you can find a copy.
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This was a mixture of good stories and bad ones, published to try to take advantage of people that wanted 'steampunk' stories, because it is the trend.

Truth is, that the stories, being short, have no meat on the bones, and no time to develop anything. it is basically authors going, 5000 words and gears? Got it.

It felt like most of these were written over the weekend to make it into the anthology, and did not have the feel that it was a story of passion for the writers.

As I said, a few were good, but most were a disappointment, and I fell into the trap of the public on this one.
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As far as I can tell, the steampunk genre is defined by steam technology and brass, and a rather high Victorian camp sensibility. Recall Jules Verne and H.G.Wells's original sci-fi stories, and you'll know exactly what that means. Of course, over the years, aficionados and practitioners of the genre have developed it, and that means that there will always be the odd one who, by widespread acclamation, would have 'extended the boundaries'.

And so, by adding a bit of tongue-in-cheek, or self-reference, or by adding social commentary, or by ignoring, say, the brass aspect, a writer would have pushed the said frontier.

Tongue-in-cheek and social commentary combine in James Morrow's 'Lady Witherspoon's Solution'. Sexual slavery - both human and machine - is explored in 'Machine Maid' by the Australian writer Margo Lanagan, which also functions as a tale of crime and mystery. Genre-bending, anyone?

The other stories are a bit more uneven. Ian MacLeod is a supreme wordsmith (his The Light Ages was a literary marvel, the steampunk aspect being the least of its wonders), and in 'Elementals' he melds the fantastic with Victorian science. But tales such as 'The Dream of Reason' by Jeffrey Ford are a bit weak - it has little to do with steampunk other than being based in a vaguely Victorian setting.

Unevenness in anthologies is expected, I guess, and because there are good stories in the blend, I can safely say this is an OK book.
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