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on March 18, 2009
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 ? Featuring some surprising plot twists and an offbeat ending, this is a gem of a Steampunk tale.

`Petrolpunk', by Adam Roberts, takes alternate worlds, eccentric Victorian regents, and conspiracies centered on oil, and churns them into an engaging story with a healthy leavening of humor.

Jay Lake's `The Lollygang Save the World on Accident' borrows a tried and true SF trope from John Crowley's 1975 novel `The Deep': a race of humans is ensconced in an enormous iron tube, the `Big Pipe', a mile in width and stuffed with all manner of decks, alcoves, speaking-tubes, and mysterious passageways. Much like Crowley's world, The Big Pipe, constructed ages ago by a race of Builders so advanced as to seem God-like, is suspended in a formless Void. The urchin Per is member of the Lollygang, one of many gangs infesting the lower levels of the Big Pipe. When he grows mistrustful of a technology left over by the Pipe's Builders, the rest of the gang are displeased, and that means trouble for Per...

Some of the other stories in `Extraordinary Engines' stay true to the Steampunk ethos; James Lovegrove's `Steampunch', MacLeod's `Elementals', Robert Reed's `American Cheetah', and Kage Baker's `Speed, Speed the Cable' are all worked around themes that devotees of the genre will find familiar and well-placed.

For me, the other entries in the anthology are less Steampunk and more `magic realism' or steam-fantasy. `Static' by Marly Youmans, `Fixing Hanover' by Jeff VanderMeer, and `The Dream of Reason' by Jeffrey Ford, are all prettily-written tales that sacrifice narrative momentum for atmosphere and a more poetic style of writing. The denouements of these stories are restrained, and as a consequence they seem rather insipid compared to the other entries in `Engines'.

All in all, `Engines' is a worthwhile collection for Steampunk fans and editor Gevers demonstrates he knows his stuff.

It's the first book I've read under the Solaris label, a new SF and fantasy imprint from the UK publisher The Black Library. US readers may recognize The Black Library as the very successful producer of the `Warhammer 40,000' novels that take up significant shelf space in the SF sections of many bookstores. With the considerable financial coffers of the Warhammer franchise providing needed financial underpinning, Solaris looks to be a real player in the SF publishing field, and I think SF fans will want to keep an eye out for this imprint, as well as other anthologies helmed by Nick Gevers.
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VINE VOICEon January 30, 2009
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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on September 12, 2012
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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on May 22, 2014
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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on March 21, 2011
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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HALL OF FAMEon February 6, 2009
First, it appears that there are different editions of this book. I have a mass market paperback edition, picked up used online, that does not contain a few selections that are mentioned in the product description and by the previous reviewers. Mine is possibly a Canadian edition, but it's similar enough to what is described elsewhere. In any case, buyer beware. At least I can review the portion of the overall collection that I did receive.

The previous reviewers are correct in that steampunk is rather difficult to define, and editor Nick Gevers has selected some stories that blur that vague definition, so hyping this book as the "definitive anthology" (as stated on the cover) is a bit of a stretch. The stories here are all new by a variety of well-established writers, with some already accomplished in steampunk but others probably experimenting with the form for the first time. A couple of writers who are not known for steampunk, James Morrow and Robert Reed, unleash some highly creative tales. But on the other hand, Kage Baker contributes what is actually a time travel story with some steampunk elements tacked on, and Marly Youmans's interminably talky contribution fails to build believable steampunk imagery. Fortunately, this anthology does have some very rewarding contributions from James Lovegrove and Adam Roberts, who really deliver on the best of what steampunk has to offer. But overall, the anthology's selections tend toward the dry and talky in ways that might turn off the fans of SF and cyberpunk who should naturally flock to steampunk. It's a fascinating sub-genre that is ably introduced here but not definitively anthologized. [~doomsdayer520~]
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on November 20, 2013
If, like me, you're new to the genre of "steampunk" (at least in literary terms), this book is a good primer to the genre. Some real hits, some real misses, but more of the former than the latter.
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VINE VOICEon November 28, 2008
This is a short story compilation of writers by Kage Baker, Michael Moorcock, Robert Reed, Lucius Shepard, Brian Stableford, Jeff VanderMeer and edited by Nick Gevers. Like many anthologies, some stories are stronger than others are, some are excellent, and some you will just skip through without even skimming them. The overall book though is very good and was very readable and enjoyable. Some of the standout stories though were Kage Baker's story with Edward Bell-Fairfax from the Company Series. The part that was the saddest is that many of the stories were not really Steampunk, and that is ok, as Steampunk is a hard genre to identify, and one would be thinking more of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for a true Steampunk look and feel.

Outside of not being in line with what I consider Steampunk, the stories overall were ok, with the standard standouts and stories to skip. It was worth picking up and reading because of those strong stories, Kage Baker, American Cheetah, Steampunch (which did meet the idea of Steampunk), and Elementals. Otherwise, everyone's opinion will vary and people will latch onto the stories from authors that they like. An anthology can never be 100% satisfying, good to read yes, but had some issues. 4 of 5 stars, worth getting for the authors that you like.
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on August 7, 2012
This was the first steampunk book I'd read in probably 10 years, and it turned me into a fanatic for the genre. I'd never heard of many of the authors, and I question the use of "definitive" in the title, but I liked almost every story. "Machine Maid" by Margo Lanagan and "Fixing Hanover" by James VanderMeer stood out for me. I don't know that it's worth some of the secondhand prices being charged currently, but I've seen copies still on the shelves at a certain nationwide big box book store, so if you're curious, look for it.
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on February 11, 2011
I'm not even a big steampunk fan or anything like that, but I wanted to see what the genre had to offer. Like one of the other reviewers I was bored by VanderMeer's anthology published the same year, which was a collection of previously published material. But "Extraordinary Engines" features all new tales specifically commissioned for the book, and WOW I haven't finished them all yet bu each one I have read so far is astounding. They are all so interesting and well written/crafted. I don't know when I've enjoyed a short story anthology as much or been so impressed by one. I'm pretty sure- never!
I'm going to look on Amazon now to see if this editor has put together any other short story collections because he sure did a great job!
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