Thursday, December 3, 2015

Conquest Through Determination: Steampunk in All of its Splendour, edited by Miles Boothe & Deana Roberts

This week I'm reviewing an anthology of steampunk-themed short stories that I picked up quite a while ago and finally got around to reading. For those of my readers who are unfamiliar with the idea of steampunk you can always watch my video rant explaining steampunk, or peruse a fine variety of other sources which explain what steampunk is. To provide the short explanation, it's a genre of science fiction usually set in the late nineteenth century with advanced technology relying upon steam power. (Although this is a very general definition, steampunk has expanded well beyond just a literary genre.) As someone who is interested in the history of the nineteenth century it's a genre that seems almost made to fit me and I have quite a lot of fun with it.

Conquest Through Determination is an anthology of over  a dozen short stories from a variety of authors, all of which are set in a variety of steampunk universes. Of course, it being an anthology I run into the issue I've had with other anthologies I've read where I can't go into much detail about the stories without potentially ruining them all. So I end up giving more of an overall impression of the book rather than a very specific review of its contents. And while this book is kind of short, at about 260 pages, I think there's quite a few entertaining and interesting stories which I think people will enjoy reading.

One theme which I noticed across these stories was a tendency to have spunky female characters who defied social conventions by being engineers and mechanics, and acting all unlady-like!  Which I'm actually in favor of and I think it's a theme in steampunk overall rather than just this collection of short stories. Modern authors generally do not hold the same Victorian ideas of gender roles and seem to take great delight in shocking Victorian sensibilities with their outspoken female characters. And honestly, I think this is a good thing. Even in the twenty-first century we still suffer from a lack of strong, female characters in fiction and so steampunk as a genre consciously making that decision is definitely a step forward. My only concern is that it will become obligatory for steampunk to have a female mechanic/engineer/scientist who doesn't give a damn about proper Victorian manners and it'll become just another worn-out trope over time. (And it did get a little repetitive for me to see so many characters that felt the same in that respect.) Hopefully, however, as steampunk continues to evolve as a genre in the future this will develop as well.

Overall I liked this anthology and I recommend it to any other steampunks out there who might read my blog, especially if you've got a little time to kill and just want to read a short story. I do remember being frustrated that one story set in an alternate American Civil War confused Frederick Douglass with Stephen Douglas, sort of a big difference. Some of the stories are sad, some are fun, and there are a couple that border on the downright bizarre, but all in all it's a pretty good read.

- Kalpar

No comments:

Post a Comment