My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Whilst Steampunk as a whole remains a genre I struggle with, I was attracted to this anthology primarily because of it being an anthology. The thing with a collection of stories is that you’re pretty much guaranteed to get at least one story that you did like.
And so it was with this. Described as an anthology of ‘fantastically strange stories from fourteen masters of speculative fiction’, Steampunk! sets itself up as an introduction to the genre. I’m nowhere near qualified to comment on whether it acts as an accurate introduction to Steampunk. What I am qualified to comment on is how the stories work for a relative genre newcomer.
One massive mark in favour of this compilation is the inclusion of two comic-strip stories. It will be no surprise that I loved Kathleen Jennings’ ‘Finishing School’, a gorgeously acute combination of the Victorian school story with steampunk and ankle length skirts. I also had a lot of love for Shawn Cheng’s ‘Seven Days Beset By Demons’ piece though I did dislike the lettering in some panels.
The other stories that worked for me, as so often in books of this nature, were right at the start. Cassandra Clare’s ‘Some Fortunate Day’ was really, really good and had a heck of a kicker in the final part. I also enjoyed Libba Bray’s ‘The Last Ride of the Glory Girls’ (maybe just because it reminded me a lot of my beloved Firefly…!).
My attention did waver substantially throughout the latter half of the book, and I ended up skipping several. Cory Doctorow’s contribution simply didn’t work for me, and I confess to being baffled by some of the other offerings.
As a whole though this book really does offer a wide introduction and an interesting, though somewhat debatable, conceptual framework to the genre, and it’s one that would have a useful place on many library shelves.