Michelle’s Review: Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant


Michelle’s Review: Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin GrantSteampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories by gavin grant, kelly link
Published by Candlewick Press on 2011
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Science & Technology, Short Stories, Steampunk, Young Adult
Pages: 420
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
four-stars
In the first major YA steampunk anthology, fourteen top storytellers push the genre's mix of sci-fi, fantasy, history, and adventure in fascinating new directions. Imagine an alternate universe where romance and technology reign. Where tinkerers and dreamers craft and re-craft a world of automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never were. Where scientists and schoolgirls, fair folk and Romans, intergalactic bandits, utopian revolutionaries, and intrepid orphans solve crimes, escape from monstrous predicaments, consult oracles, and hover over volcanoes in steam-powered airships. Here, fourteen masters of speculative fiction, including two graphic storytellers, embrace the genre's established themes and refashion them in surprising ways and settings as diverse as Appalachia, ancient Rome, future Australia, and alternate California. Visionaries Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant have invited all-new explorations and expansions, taking a genre already rich, strange, and inventive in the extreme and challenging contributors to remake it from the ground up. The result is an anthology that defies its genre even as it defines it.

fromthestash

From the Stash is just my way to denote when something is from before I had the blog. I have been reviewing books since January 2010 so I’d like to showcase some of that past work. This was originally reviewed in January 2012.

Brand new library book with the smell intact (don’t judge!), the anthology was my first formal introduction with the steampunk genre. And while these stories sought to be different from the cliches of the genre (which I have yet to encounter due to my beginner level with it), I have learned some things about it.

My thoughts about the genre as presented by the anthology: what sets steampunk apart from science fiction or fantasy, magical realism or alternate historical fiction? I suppose steam punk is a melding of all these genres into a broader, or perhaps more narrow category, but it doesn’t pass the test for me. I feel like the genre, and by that I mean the authors, are trying to hard to fit their stories into a particular label that at this moment is a very popular one and therefore sensational. I will continue to read the occasional steampunk novel, but I fear I cannot wholeheartedly support this movement, this literary niche without either further research or a change of heart.

That said, the anthology was a pleasant read. Each story was in fact different, and yet flowed into each other, with themes from the previous story leading into the next. Some standouts: The Last Ride of the Glory Girls – a wild west female coming-of-age story; Everything Amiable and Obliging – Holly Black is a best-selling author for a reason as this story about love and robots was riveting; Seven Days Beset by Demons – one of the two graphic stories in the anthology, I loved the art and the simplicity of the story; Hand in Glove – almost a crime noire set in California with an odd culprit; and The Summer People – which while I will argue that this was definitely more fantasy/magical realism than steampunk, was an interesting story set in Appalachia with entities that might be known as fairies.

There were other good stories in the anthology, but some felt more forced than others. Overall, I looked forward to seeing what the next story had in store and I would recommend it to anyone, whether they are mechanized veterans of the genre or interlopers into the strange world of steampunk.

pj - michelle

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