From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The VanderMeers (The New Weird
) have assembled another outstanding theme anthology, this one featuring stories set in alternate Victorian eras. Michael Moorcock, the godfather of steampunk, is represented by an excerpt from his classic novel The Warlord of the Air
. In Lord Kelvin's Machine, a fine tale from prolific steampunk author James P. Blaylock, mad scientists plot to throw the Earth into the path of a passing comet, declaring that science will save us this time, gentlemen, if it doesn't kill us first. Michael Chabon's vivid and moving The Martian Agent, a Planetary Romance recounts the lives of two young brothers in the aftermath of George Custer's mutiny against Queen Victoria, while historical fantasist Mary Gentle describes a classic struggle between safety and progress in A Sun in the Attic. This is a superb introduction to one of the most popular and inventive subgenres in science fiction. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The VanderMeers, ardent steampunkers themselves, historically sample that fantasy genre, in which the Victorian era is reimagined to include Martian technology, steam-powered robots, airships, alchemy, and various anachronistic technologies. First, an excerpt from Michael Moorcock’s The Warlord of the Air (1971), considered the first fruit of the movement, though its real origins can be traced back to the work of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells and, according to Jess Nevins’ introduction, to the dime-novel Edisonades of the late nineteenth century. Steampunk wasn’t considered a genre until the 1980s and early 1990s, when such innovators as Tim Powers, James Blaylock, Paul Di Filippo, and Joe R. Lansdale began writing stories in this vein, some of which are included here. A standout is Ted Chiang’s “Seventy-Two Letters,” in which the theory of preformation and homunculi as well as the biblically inspired figure of the golem are real science. Others, by mainstream-recognized authors, are Michael Chabon’s “The Martian Agent” and Neal Stephenson’s “Excerpt from the Third and Last Volume of Tribes of the Pacific Coast.” --Ben Segedin