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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another fascinating steampunk collection,
This review is from: Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded (Paperback)Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded is the second steampunk anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, following 2008's first installment. It contains about twice as many stories as its predecessor, but unlike the first collection the quality is more uneven here, resulting in a less impressive but still fascinating anthology that should please fans of the genre.
While the first anthology only contained one story I was less than happy with, there are at least four or five in Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded that I could have done without. There are also a few stories here that are at best marginally connected to steampunk, although that probably depends more on how you define steampunk. After all, there are probably as many definitions of steampunk as there are readers. Maybe the best way to define the genre is simply not to, instead following the famous old "definition" of obscenity: "I know it when I see it."
Still, even if you go by that rule, "The Gernsback Continuum" by William Gibson, while a brilliant story that everyone should read, hardly feels like steampunk, unless you consider "any story that imposes science fiction tropes on an earlier period of history" a valid definition. Regardless, it's hard to complain about a story that's so famous and so excellent. Another example of a great story that seems to be at best peripheral to steampunk is Stephen Baxter's "The Unblinking Eye," which feels more like an elaborate alternate history that happens to have airships in it. Similarly, "The Unbecoming of Virgil Smythe" by Ramsey Shehadeh is a quirky and highly entertaining story that mixes Murder on the Orient Express with trans-dimensional aliens, but if it didn't happen to be set on a steam train, I doubt anyone would even consider it as steampunk. Still, all three of these stories are excellent, whatever subgenre you stick them in.
Other highlights of the collection that feel more authentically steampunk are Jeffrey Ford's "Dr. Lash Remembers," about a steam-borne plague affecting the sufferers' perception of reality, and Caitlín R. Kiernan's "The Steam Dancer (1896)," a beautifully written, melancholy tale about a dancer made whole by steam-driven technology.
My single favorite story in this collection is Margo Lanagan's "Machine Maid," a steampunk story that feels like a true period piece aside from the steam-powered automata. It features an awkward but unforgettable protagonist and some of the best writing in the collection.
Another excellent story is "As Recorded on Brass Cylinders: Adagio for Two Dancers" by James L. Grant and Lisa Mantchev, describing the meeting of two relics of the steam age in a modern mall. It almost feels like a steampunk version of Kage Baker's COMPANY universe. While it lays on the emotion a bit too heavily at times, it's a gorgeous, touching story that employs many of the standard themes and devices of the genre but still comes out looking and feeling original.
A true gem, appearing towards the end of the collection, is Catherynne M. Valente's "The Anachronist's Cookbook." Its protagonist -- who puts the "punk" back in steampunk in a big way -- resembles a Victorian version of Richard K. Morgan's Quellcrist Falconer. Also riffing on the political side of steampunk, but entirely on the opposite end of the scale in terms of seriousness, is G.D. Falksen's "The Strange Case of Mr. Salad Monday," a fun story about a steampunk version of the blogosphere and an intrepid detective trying to catch a suspected socialist dissident.
Cherie Priest contributes "Tanglefoot," a story set in the same world as her CLOCKWORK CENTURY books, but despite its charm, the story unfortunately goes on a bit too long for my taste. More successfully, Daniel Abraham delivers "The Adventure of the Emperor's Vengeance", a solid and entertaining story about Balfour and Meriwether, two agents of the British Empire attempting to stop a curse from the past.
Closing out the fiction portion of the anthology is one of the strangest stories I've read in years, "A Secret History of Steampunk" by a collection of writers and artists working under the pseudonym "The Mecha-Ostrich." It reads somewhat as if Jeff VanderMeer were being remixed by a handful of authors, or possibly vice versa. It cleverly connects to several other stories in the collection, and while it's not entirely successful, it's definitely innovative and unique.
The final section of the collection offers two non-fiction pieces about the non-literary side of steampunk (about fashion and the DIY/Maker culture, respectively) and a brief "Roundtable" interview about the future of steampunk. This section makes the anthology relevant not just as collection of stories but as a snapshot of an entire subculture, as does the artwork, which is one of the only aspects where Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded has the upper hand over its otherwise stronger predecessor. There are a few neat Terry Gilliam-circa-1970-style illustrations mixed into the book, and the Mecha-Ostrich story features some especially gorgeous artwork.
Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded is another strong collection of stories from a subgenre that seems to be gaining in popularity every single day. If not for a handful of entries that bring the overall quality of the collection down, this would be another unqualified winner. If you're new to the genre, I'd still recommend picking up the earlier Steampunk anthology first, but this second collection contains enough excellent stories to make it worth your time if you want to dig a little deeper.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dreams with Some Steam,
This review is from: Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded (Paperback)Anthologies are hard to judge. There are over 20 authors jam packed into Steampunk II and each deserves their own little section, but I don't have room here. What can be judged is the editing of the book. Editors have to take the raw stories and make sure they run smoothly together while also allowing each piece to have its' own opportunity to stand out. In that aspect, the book does a respectable job and the team of Ann and Jeff VanderMeer display their expertise here.
Like the name implies, Steampunk II is a sequel to the VanderMeer's first Steampunk book. The book is filled with some famous writers like Cherie Priest and William Gibson and some you won't recognize unless you are a hardcore fan. Each writer has their own style and idea of what steampunk means. Not everyone has the same interpretation of the term. The book also has a collection of nonfictional essays written by writers that explore the essence and meaning of Steampunk.
One of my favorite fictional works was by a Danish author named Vilhelm Bergsøe. He died in 1911 and this story has never published in English until now. Vilhelm's story seamlessly fits into this anthology and is completely unnoticeable surrounded by modern day writers. If it wasn't for the paragraph introduction in the beginning, I would never have realized it.
Steampunk has long been argued over the last decade, is it dead or is it alive, and with great writers out there making books like this, who cares?
*Originally published for San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review*
4.0 out of 5 stars anthology without borders,
This review is from: Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded (Paperback)In the introduction to this collection the VanderMeers do not give a clear definition of what is steampunk. In the last paragraph of the introduction the editors, however, notice that «steampunk is alive and well and manifesting in a myriad of different ways». This is where the editors are right. After reading «Steampunk II» you are unlikely to become clear what steampunk is, but the diversity of the stories will give an idea how wide the scope of this subgenre.
Steampunk's grandparents had sci-fi roots, but it does not mean that the whole steampunk is definitely SF. There are stories here that in spirit and entourage tend toward fantasy, there are those that can be called science fiction, and there are simply examples of "weird fiction."
The strongest stories here «Dr. Lash Remembers» by Jeffrey Ford, where an unknown virus that causes disease blur the line between reality and fantasy, «O One» by Chris Roberson, a fantasy in which the action takes place on Chinese soil. Among the representatives of the weird fiction stands out David Erik Nelson's «The Bold Explorer in the Place Beyond», where the first-person narrator tells of the clash of two worlds. «Tanglefoot» by Cherie Priest is a bit lightweight, but Priest puts the best from Victorian prose in her story of a mad scientist.
Three more stories related to the theme of the South. In «The Steam Dancer (1896)" Caitleen R. Kiernan tells unusually touching story that could happen in our world in the Wild West, but the presence of elements of science fiction helps to better describe the character of the heroine of the story, a dancer from the title. Wild West is the entourage of another story, pure western, but with robots, «The Cast-Iron Kid» by Andrew Knighton. Steampunk-western is even better than Spaghetti Western! «Machine Maid» by Margo Lanagan takes place not the Wild West, but it could happen there. Noirish elements are heard in this tense tale of the maid and her master.
This is not an ideal anthology, there are some mediocre stories. But «Steampunk II» by its very existence proves that if a genre has borders, they are very fragile.
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great collection,
This review is from: Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded (Paperback)This is a second anthology of essays and fiction about Steampunk. This collection is especially pretty, and includes lots of black and white illustrations. Good job!
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent,
This review is from: Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded (Paperback)I read this several times, it's an excellent book to get the latest info on the subject, it's a good read!
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Steampunk Stories,
This review is from: Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded (Paperback)Compared to the first Steampunk anthology I consider this one a massive improvement. Although I thought a few stories did deviate from what I consider true Steampunk I enjoyed all of them. I thought The Cast-Iron Kid to be particularly good and very Steampunk in that it involves a mechanized gunfighter in the Old West. The illustrations used throughout were quite good and I thought the Lovelace and Babbage graphic story EXTREMELY entertaining. This volume makes me hope there will be some more good Steampunk anthologies in the future.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Steampunk is for makers,
This review is from: Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded (Paperback)Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction that has grown into a lifestyle for many. The new anthology Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer (Tachyon Publications), features an introduction and a couple of essays that point out the connections between steampunk enthusiasts and the DIY community. Here's an excerpt from the introduction:
"Throughout the 1990s and early parts of the aughts, steampunk mostly took the form of comics and movies... and found expression through the nascent steampunk subculture. The subculture riffed off of those movies and comics, the works of Verne and Wells, and the Victorian era itself to create a vibrant fashion, arts, maker, and DIY community."
The editors go on to add:
"The influence of the maker movement is also apparent in what we would call a burgeoning of 'steampunk tinker' stories that speak to the themes of self-sufficiency and DIY aesthetics that permeate the subculture."
An essay by Jake Van Slatt makes an even more explicit connection to technical hobbyists. He traces the mid-twentieth century rise of technical hobbys (think of Heathkit and Radio Shack) through the decline of the hobby in the age of cheap solid-state gadgets to the current return of interest in discovering how things work for oneself.
"...a kid growing up will always ask: "Daddy, how does a light bulb work?" and when Daddy can't answer that question, the child is left with a tiny hunger. It is that hunger that's driving the resurgence of electronics as a hobby today."
Van Slatt sees the steampunk lifestyle as the romantic offshoot of a renewed interest in understanding the technological underpinnings of our society. It's a fascinating book that documents an interesting crossover of cultures.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent Anthology.,
This review is from: Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded (Paperback)I was a big fan of the Vandermeers' first steampunk anthology, but the line up on the sequel exceeds all expectations. I noticed the full list of stories isn't on this page, so here it is:
* Ekaterina Sedia, "Two Short Excerpts from the Russian Book of the Improbable"
* Jeffrey Ford, "Dr. Lash Remembers"
* Matthew Cheney, "Confessions and Complaints of a True Man"
* Ramsey Shehadeh, "The Unbecoming of Virgil Smythe"
* Vilhelm Bergsoe, "Flying Fish (Prometheus)", translated by Dwight R. Decker
* As well as contributions by Fabio Fernandes, Brian Stableford, Jess Nevins, and the Steampunk heretic known only as "The Mecha-Ostrich."
Original Non-fiction Articles by:
* Gail Carriger, author of Soulless (fashion and fiction)
* Jake Von Slatt of the Steampunk Workshop (maker movement)
* Mike Perschon, the Steampunk Scholar (the future)
* Daniel Abraham, "Balfour and Meriwether in the Adventure of the Emperor's Vengeance"
* Stephen Baxter, "The Unblinking Eye"
* Winona Cookie, "The Unlikely Career of Portia Dreadnought," "Artemesia's Absinthe," and "Obadiah Theremin, MD"
* G.D. Falksen, "The Strange Case of Mr. Salad Monday"
* William Gibson, "The Gernsback Continuum"
* Samantha Henderson, "Wild Copper"
* Caitlín R. Kiernan "The Steam Dancer (1896)"
* Andrew Knighton, "The Cast-Iron Kid"
* Marc Laidlaw, "Great Breakthroughs in Darkness"
* Margo Lanagan, "Machine Maid"
* Lisa Mantchev & James Grant, "As Recorded on Brass Cylinders: Adagio for Two Dancers"
* Shweta Narayan, "The Mechanical Aviary of Emperor Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar"
* David Erik Nelson, "The Bold Explorer in the Place Beyond"
* Cherie Priest "Tanglefoot"
* Chris Roberson, "O One"
* Margaret Ronald, "A Serpent in the Gears"
* Catherynne M. Valente, "The Anachronist's Cookbook"
I've only read a few of the stories in this anthology (G.D. Falksen's "The Strange Case of Mr. Salad Monday" is fantastic, Catherynne M. Valente's "The Anachronist's Cookbook is good fun) and I'm very much looking forward to reading the rest!
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great condition and came in quick,
This review is from: Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded (Paperback)It is used a bit but still great. No ripped pages and no creases on the cover considering that its paper-backed. It came in quick and in time, glad I got it here.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great anthology of steampunk stories!,
This review is from: Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded (Paperback)Great anthology of steampunk stories!
The first one was great and I loved it, this one so far ( I haven't finished it yet!)
I would recommend this book to anyone who was wanting to read some great steampunk literature.
- DJ Electfire
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Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded by Jeff VanderMeer (Paperback - November 15, 2010)