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4 Steampunk Books Worth Reading!

When it comes to steampunk many wonder, ‘what is steampunk?’ One of the best ways I’ve seen it describe came from Jeff Vandreamer and S. J. Chambers’s book, The Steampunk Bible.

“First, it’s simultaneously retro and forward-looking in nature. Second, it evokes a sense of adventure and discovery. Third, it embraces divergent and extinct technologies as a way of talking about the future.”

Many have dubbed the great Jules Verne as being the ‘Father of Steampunk.’ His brilliantly written Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea has certainly earned him the title. He was, however, not the first author to write about advanced technology.

Mary Shelley created a way to bring the dead to life using machinery in her novel, Frankenstein, published in 1818. Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Man that was Used Up, published in 1839, was about a Brigadier General named John A. B. C. Smith, who needed to be assembled like an automaton.

But regardless of what steampunk is, or when it came about, one thing is for sure, it’s a creative genre for storytellers—like me. When I sit down with a good steampunk book, it’s truly a treat, not solely from the pleasure of reading it, but also it makes for a good source of research for writing.

1.) Tales of the Ketty Jay

The Tales of the Ketty Jay series by Chris Wooding is a good example. These books were crafted in such a way that you almost believe you’re in a theater, watching a highly explosive film. The cast of characters are a band of ragged misfit pirates that help crew an ugly bulky airship known as the Ketty Jay, that flies about inside a world on the brink of war. This world is also filled with many mechanical wonders as well as nightmarish ones.

2.) The Steampunk Bible

The Steampunk Bible, which I mentioned earlier, is a wonderful breakdown about everything steampunk. Clothing, music, books, machines, and artworks, anyone interested in steampunk or is writing steampunk stories, and is in need of some inspiration ought to read The Steampunk Bible.

3.) The Difference Engine

Although I was not highly impressed with this particular book, I can’t deny that The Difference Engine, written by both William Gibson and Bruce Sterling had a very good style of writing. The story did not catch my fancy in the least, I found it confusing, longwinded, and downright slow. However, the authors’ talents with words truly put me into the character’s world.

4.) The Aeronaut’s Windlass

The Aeronaut’s Windlass, by Jim Butcher, is a novel I have just touched on, yet I already have fallen in love with his writing style, and I sense it will be as entertaining, perhaps more so than the Tales of the Ketty Jay series.

All these novels, for better or worse, have been a great assistance as I work on developing my own steampunk series. There are many more terrific steampunk novels that, thanks to these books, have me wanting to fill my library with every one of them.

Michelle Lowe is the author of Legacy, a steampunk adventure set in Southern England, now available from Amazon.

Comments

  1. If you consider the Difference Engine to be Gibson and Sterling rewriting Disraeli’s Sybil (or a Tale of Two Nations) then that may explain why you weren’t impressed by it. In many respects it is a Roman à Thèse and thus a bed fellow of Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Voltaire’s Candide and Camus’ L’Etranger. It is a book of ideas and theses, packaged as a novel.

    I’d also be more than a little tempted to throw Michael Moorcock’s Warlord of the Air in to the mix. Dating from 1971 this tale of the adventures of Edwardian soldier Oswald Bastable is definitely in the vanguard of modern steampunk.

    And Lavie Tidhar’s Bookman Histories have great fun and provide three interlinked novels of steampunk aesthetic, Victorian literary nods, adventure and counterfactual history that make an enjoyable and heady melange.

    On a more visual note, take a gander at the original TV version of The Wild, Wild West from the late 60’s for steampunk (before Kevin Jeter coined the term). Though steer well clear of the dire Kevin Kline and Will Smith movie of the same name.

  2. Agree totally with the recommendation of Moorcock’s Oswald Bastable series. The three books are published as ‘The Nomad of Time’.
    However since they (especially ‘ the Steel Tsar’) fit into the wider Moorcock’s Multiverse they can be a shock to those unfamiliar with his work. That said , Bastable is not a bad jumping on point.

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