I’d been dying to read this and deepest, darkest, wettest winter is when I am usually in the mood for something really heavy and science fiction rarely comes heavier than Alastair Reynolds. I am a big fan of his Revelation Space books and aside from Century Rain have felt that his stuff set outside of that universe has rarely been as good (though by no means bad). When this was released a couple of years ago, we were promised his first true venture into steampunk and a mash-up of various science fiction style in one world. So it promised to be weird-fi as well as sci-fi.
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Random thoughts for a random book. I know he is the master of weird-fi but I never expected this much weirdness. My previous dabbling with Miéville is the novelette Tis the Season (which I will read again and review closer to Christmas) so I had an idea of what to expect.
The weirdness and the fact that it throws you in at the deep end from very early on is very reminiscent of Paulo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl. However, unlike that book, the writing style is very easy on the eye – much easier than you might have expected after reading the first couple of chapters. Continue reading →
So, last weekend I read, absorbed and reviewed Jeff Vandermeer’s The Steampunk Bible. Something that Vandermeer hinted at through the text and something that was far more blatant in the afterthought written by Jake von Slatt got me thinking, it concerned how perhaps people are drawn to steampunk as a reaction against the nature of modern technological advances.
Throughout, Vandermeer and his other guest writers lamented the loss of a time of accessibility of technology. It used to be that anybody could fix their own car with a hammer, a tin of oil and a bit of muscle. Yet these days with the computer power and electronics that could shut down the car if one otherwise insignificant part of the vehicle goes wrong, we simply have to take it to a garage. Invariably, it will usually cost us a small fortune too.
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Oh steampunk, steampunk how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
Actually I’m still a relative steam virgin if I’m honest. My exploration of this bizarre subgenre has really only inched forward in the last two years with the previous work I read in the being The Windup Girl almost 18 months ago now. Shameful really considering I come from a railway town. Continue reading →
Ah, Ah, Ah… Spoilers
By gum we’re in Yorkshire in 1893 me lad! A husband and wife are discussing strange goings-on at a factory. He kisses her before going into a red room. Immediately, a lift opens to a group of black-clad women. Diana Rigg (Mrs Gillyflower) immediately informs the simpering wife that she is sorry for what happened to her husband; he is dead. But she cannot understand – he has only just gone into that room and was perfectly fine. She hears a scream and then screams herself. Continue reading →
Ah, ah, ah… SPOILERS: Episode Summary
On a distant planet in the dark, a cyborg in a stetson has a man at his mercy. He scans the man, identifying his target. The target is kneeling and resigned to his impending death. He asks if he is “the last one”. The cyborg says no, raises his gun and states that one remains… The Doctor.
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Just a quick heads-up people. amazon.co.uk yesterday started a Kindle Reading Marathon with the best part of 600 books on sale from 99p upwards. Despite this large selection, there are only four in the science fiction genre.
I bought two of them for the grand total of £1.98. Nothing else in the collection interested me though if I hadn’t already read it, I’d have bought Rivers of London for £1.99
These were The Mammoth Book of Steampunk and The Mammoth Book of Nebula Awards.
I’m still eager to explore steampunk a little more. I’m still very much the beginner and I’ve come to the subgenre through the artwork… someday I will discuss some of my favourite examples even though it is off-topic for this blog.
The holiday that I am currently on (I’m writing this post four days before I leave by the way) is my first without The Holiday Reading Dilemma. And when I have such a large backlog as I generally do, it can often cause me a lot of stress. Seriously, I used to spend hours deciding which of my books to take with me and I had a very specific ritual:
* No fewer than three (in case I run out)
* No more than five (because I’ll never read more than that)
* Try to avoid having two of the same sub-genre (avoids repetition if the books are inadvertantly too similar)
* Paperbacks only (for weight)
* Light reading only (nothing too deep – I am on holiday!)
* Not too thick (for weight) Continue reading →
Found “Lloyd Shepherd’s top 10 weird histories” while browsing The Guardian books section again tonight. It is an article about strange and alternate histories in fiction.
I think it’s quite a fascinating collection. You would think as an idea that the alternate history has been done to death but personally, I rarely fail to be fascinated by the opinions of others on what might have been. Of course, this is speculation only and fascinating because of it. Continue reading →
In a dystopian future where people live in giant towers, religions have been replaced by the worship of commerce and the rain really is acidic, Will Starling is cataloguing Victorian art when he discovers that one of the figures in one scan has a digital watch. When he brings this to the attention of his manager he is ordered to destroy it. Instead he chooses to hide it within the archives.
When he is hunted by a clockwork killer robot from 1899, he finds himself trapped in a centuries-old conspiracy that threatens the world. He travels back there to see a world of Tesla generators, wireless electricity, robots, airships and a secret plot by a group of witches to change history. On his journey he meets Hugo Rune, the philosopher of so many of Rankin’s novels and the dastardly Count Otto Black as they seek to stop the villain from changing the future. Also is an alternate Will from another potential future, Charles Babbage and a Queen Victoria of whom the real monarch would not have approved.
As well as being a steampunk novel in its own right, this comes across as a spoof/homage to two notable works of steampunk fiction The Difference Engine and The Anubis Gates. There is enough discussion of technology to make it a serious steampunk work; Rankin isn’t just riding coat-tails here and what results is one of the most complex and coherent of Rankin’s work.
Yes, despite the silliness this is rather a clever novel and it is no less quirky for it. As one of his more recent books it also has less of the surreal aspect of his earlier work. A great introduction to his work but also an absolute must for already converted fans.