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Bartleby and James: Edwardian Steampunk Chronicle (Galvanic Century Book 1) Kindle Edition
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Michael Coorlim does write some mean steam punk. If I could say that anything was typical steampunk I would have to say that his work has a lot of the marks, but falls short of a bit of steam. There are air ships and geared mechanical devices and necromancing with the use of brains and other body parts brought back to life to integrate with some of these devices. There also exists in this universe a Mr. Holmes and a Victor Von Frankenstein. But once again, if it is there, steam is in the background somewhere where I missed it. We are in an Edwardian era rather than Victorian. But what's important to me is that these short stories entertained me and I'm giving them high marks; and for that I'm going to be just a bit nit-picky in some areas.
I'm told short stories are a lot more difficult than novels and I will give it this much in that there is less time to introduce characters and the science involved when you have to get right to the plot and reach a conclusion in short order. This set does a fair job and because it is told from James’s point of view we often get more of a look at James than Bartleby. Though much like the Holmes and Watson duo the story is told by James and he is the one to introduce us to Bartleby. But the dynamic is quite different from those other two old soldiers and this narrative ends up favoring James.
James is a bit of an antisocial loner who has strong anti-religious opinions and he often denigrates other engineers. We find out quite early that they both might share the weakness of being bigots.
Bartleby detests Americans.
<blockquote> "Likewise a low creature. Just another nouveau-riche American trophy wife who has thus far spent the voyage trying to insinuate herself into the good graces of her betters. No doubt she holds hopes of an introduction into the London social scene. As if I'd inflict her upon them."
Coorlim, Michael (2014-09-10). Bartleby and James: Edwardian Steampunk Chronicle (Galvanic Century Book 1) (p. 41). Pomoconsumption Press. Kindle Edition. </blockquote>
While James expresses poor opinions about America's engineers.
<blockquote> "For what?" I'd lived and worked in the man's country previously, and I didn't find it very suiting. A very different sort of engineering culture and climate, one I wasn't keen on entering into again. Sloppy. Undisciplined.
Coorlim, Michael (2014-09-10). Bartleby and James: Edwardian Steampunk Chronicle (Galvanic Century Book 1) (p. 52). Pomoconsumption Press. Kindle Edition.</blockquote>
In context I thought this was James but looking back it could be just as easily Bartleby though it would make more sense to be James. The progression of dialogue would almost argue Bartleby. So I might attribute it, in spirit, to both.
Yet later we find both acknowledging that the RGAE or RGEA allow for enough slop in it's membership to have members of somewhat unaccredited nature, which makes them just a bit hypocritical.
The R.G.A.E. and the R.G.E.A. show up often and seem as though there might be two organizations one is The Royal Guild of Artificers and Engineers and the other is the Royal Guild of Engineers and Artificers.
I'm sure they are the same; but just the same, what's the difference: really?
It is not difficult to see that James has issues dealing with Bartleby's fiancé though in the same token its a wonder that Bartleby has Aldora as his intended.
As mentioned early on it's easy to see that there is almost a comparison to Holmes and Watson and when a character named Holmes makes a cameo it cements that thought. But these two are nowhere near the dynamic of that duo (And, somewhere internally to this set of stories, that fact is mentioned). Bartleby is far from a concise deductive reasoning detective. In fact often his logic seems flawed. Take the example below::
<blockquote>"Our killer probably doesn't know how to do a proper wash, which points to an officer as the culprit. Perhaps the blood stained all the uniforms in his load. He discovered this, wheeled the load out in a laundry trolley and dumped the lot overboard, disposing of enough to obfuscate his identity, I'd wager. That was the shift we felt. Wet laundry as ballast."
"Why does an inability to do the wash indicate an officer?"
"Trust me, James. I was an officer once. We're rather quite helpless." He almost stumbled as he crept to the hatch. "I say, James, we'd better hurry. The tilt is getting quite noticeable."
Coorlim, Michael (2014-09-10). Bartleby and James: Edwardian Steampunk Chronicle (Galvanic Century Book 1) (p. 44). Pomoconsumption Press. Kindle Edition.</blockquote>
This one is the most outstanding of all examples; but it clearly shows that his deductions seem more colored by his own personal experience rather than observable fact.
Perhaps this helps put James in a better position than Watson was with Holmes, in that they now become a team that works together equally blessed and flawed; as a complementary set.
Bartleby is more often than not ready to rely on someone else knowledge to help solve the case so there are a number of contacts he has for this. Holmes, if I remember correctly, had many agents that were good for the legwork and information gathering while he more often relied on his own knowledge and the expanding of that knowledge. Still the stories are all quite clever mysteries.
Throughout there are examples of sentences that baffle and befuddle me, requiring deciphering, and I often have to be careful because sometimes it's a difference in British and USA English. I have highlighted a couple here that I feel were most troubling.
<blockquote>"I always pined myself for a personal experience with the mysteries of the divine. In the Orient my wishes were granted.
Coorlim, Michael (2014-09-10). Bartleby and James: Edwardian Steampunk Chronicle (Galvanic Century Book 1) (p. 97). Pomoconsumption Press. Kindle Edition.</blockquote>
I always pined myself for a personal experience with the mysteries of the divine.
The 'I always' is simple present yet the pined doesn't seem to work with it and perhaps it should be 'I always pine'- but this is the least of the problems with this sentence.
Without punctuation I first read this as 'I always pined myself' and oddly that works if you take the use of 'for' as 'because of' it would read:: 'I always pine myself because of a personal experience.' :: But then the next sentence refutes that:: 'In the orient my wishes were granted.':: So pined here seems to mean 'long for'.
I always long for a personal experience with the mysteries of the divine.
Since this is in dialogue and people do speak this way it might work but as you can see at least one reader gets confused.
A second example is""
<blockquote>I joined Bartleby in the dining room to tell him my findings of a supper over cold knots of beef and ginger beer.
Coorlim, Michael (2014-09-10). Bartleby and James: Edwardian Steampunk Chronicle (Galvanic Century Book 1) (p. 20). Pomoconsumption Press. Kindle Edition.</blockquote>
This one took a stretch for me to try to unravel.
Again there is a lack of punctuation and this time in narrative it leaves me thinking there are words missing unless perhaps I could switch of and over.
I joined Bartleby in the dining room, to tell him my finding, over a supper of cold knots of beef and ginger beer.
Other wise I keep having it::..., to tell him my findings of a supper, over cold knots of beef and ginger beer.
I do think that these stories could use one more brush with the editors. But other than the confusing sentence structure, which might be just me being sensitive, these stories are well written mysteries with a smidgen of character development, but emphasis seems more toward the punk aspect albeit Steampunk, Clockworkpunk, or Paranormalpunk. It is all very entertaining and should be of interest to most SFF fans who are not particular about the science aspects and definitely an addition to any collector of things Steampunk.
I'll be looking at more from Michael Coorlim
I know there are a couple reviews saying that the reveals in the first couple stories don't give enough information on how Bartleby came to his conclusions, but I never thought, "I wonder how he figured this out." The clues and information all seemed to be deftly written into the story.
I've been trying to decide which of these was my favorite, but that's a tough call. Each story is more fun than the last, so being last, "Matter of Spirit" is technically my favorite, but they were all such a blast to read.
To me, these stories contain a heavy dollop of Conan Doyle and a good measure of Will Thomas. As I like both authors, this is fine with me because the stories are not merely copycat. In the spirit of modern day movies, Watson is gone or transformed. Sherlock is divided in half between the two men, and in a nod to Will Thomas, kindness and human feeling without unreasoning sentimentality is included by the presence of the Chinese girl.
As a bonus, there are far, far fewer instances of the typos and proofreading errors so common in ebooks. A profound 'thank you' to Michael Coorlim!
Why the half-star reservation? That may be my own fault. I enjoyed the stories so much that I read them in two sittings. As much as I enjoy steampunk, that's a heavy dose to absorb in such a short time.
In summary, I recommend this author and these stories without reservation.
In addition, one very important thing always missing in the Holmes mysteries was a strong human element. The landlady and Watson's wife were seldom mentioned and never more than inconsequential trappings. The fact that this this element is warmly and artfully welcomed into this book in the "Scissorman" story renders the whole work involving and meaningful in a way that the indisputably masterful Holmes stories never were.
I will certainly be reading the entire series, and then agitating for more.
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