Review: The Native Star by M. K. Hobson

The Native Star by M. K. Hobson
The Native Star by M. K. Hobson

The Native Star
M. K. Hobson
Spectra, 2010
As I’ve said in the past I’m a bit of a sucker for tales of the “weird west.” So it shouldn’t much of a surprise to note that I picked up and listened to the audiobook version of M. K. Hobson’s The Native Star. Set in Reconstruction Era America The Native Star,the first in the series of the same, follows small town witch Emily Edwards. The novel opens with Emily, desperate to take care of her mentor and adoptive father, placing a love charm on a local businessman. This desperate act sends Emily on a path that unites her with titular artifact and attaches her to the mannered and formally trained warlock Dreadnaught Stanton. The novel follows Emily and Dreadnaught as they attempt to understand the mystery of the Native Star.

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Review: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Behemoth by Scott Westefeld
Behemoth by Scott Westefeld

Scott Westerfeld
Simon Pulse, 2010

Though its been a little over a year since I read Leviathan I was still pretty excited to get by hands on Scott Westefeld’s Behemoth. Before I even describe the novel I need to take a moment to say that whoever was in charge of cover art for this book should be fired; without question. For a novel sprinkled with the wonderful art of Kieth Thompson the steaming pile that they dumped on the cover is an affront to artists, or anyone with a modicum of taste, everywhere. It’s absolutely atrocious and does nothing to even hint at the adventure and excitement between its pages. (Note: It should be noted that the forthcoming third novel is blighted by a similar, IMO much worse, bit of nastiness).

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Review: Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

Dreadnought by Cherie Priest
Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest (twitter)
Tor, 2010

Dreadnought by Cherie Priest is a breakneck action filled steampunk title that grabs hold and never lets go. Vinita “Mercy” Lynch is a nurse at the Confederate hospital in Robertson, Virginia. When news of her husband’s death (a Union soldier) arrives it is followed quickly by news of her estranged father’s illness and a request that she visit him in Seattle. With little left holding her at the hospital Mercy packs her few bags and heads West. Of course this wouldn’t be much of a story if things didn’t go horribly horribly wrong and Mercy is constantly besieged by trouble of all varieties.

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Review: Clementine by Cherie Priest

Clementine by Cherie Priest
Clementine by Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest
Audible Frontiers, 2011

I missed out on Clementine’s initial release via Subterranean Press but discovered last week that Audible released an audio version via their Audible Frontiers SFF imprint.  Clementine is a novella set in the Clockwork Century universe and centers on two main characters: Captain Croggon Beauregard Heaney (first met in Boneshaker) and former Confederate spy turned Pinkerton detective Maria Isabella Boyd.  Clementine focuses on the narratives of these two characters featuring Heaney’s quest to recover his stolen vessel The Free Crow (now christened the titular Clementine) and Maria’s first job as a Pinkerton to ensure the Clementine’s safe arrival at its destination.  Of course, not everything goes according to plan for either side…much to the delight of readers.  While having read Boneshaker isn’t a requirement for reading Clementine the events that take place prior to the novella, namely the theft of the Free Crow from Captain Heaney and its rechristening as Clementine, are detailed towards Boneshaker’s conclusion.  The how and why of it are less important than the fact that it did happen though and new readers (or listeners) will have little trouble jumping aboard with Clementine. Continue reading “Review: Clementine by Cherie Priest”

Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest
Tor, 2009

My love for Ms. Priest’s work has been professed before so this review is hardly unbiased.  Indeed, Boneshaker is certainly one of the catalysts that sent me on brief dip into the steampunk pool.  It is also the only steampunk novel I read this month that was set in America.  If my appreciation of Ms. Priest’s work wasn’t enough to predispose me towards liking this novel she went ahead and set it in Seattle which, despite being a city I’ve only visited twice for all too brief a time and despite being born and bread in the shadow of the city that never sleeps, is a place that has a strange place in my heart;  I guess it’s a city I guess I’m half in love with (with a gorgeous library that was hit hard by recent budget changes but if you visit you should definitely check out!).

Of course the Seattle of Boneshaker is not the Seattle we know.  It is city that has become a wasteland thanks to the terrible Boneshaker built by Dr. Leviticus Blue which went on an uncontrolled rampage and somehow unleashed a hidden pocket of deadly Blight gas that not only kills all it touches, but brings those it kills back as flesh-craving rotters (a history told much better by the book’s introduction available over at The Clockwork Century).  The book opens up years later with Leviticus’ wife, Briar and son Ezekial (Zeke) living in the Outskirts; a town that arose around the now walled-up Seattle.  Briar and Zeke now go by the last name Wilkes, Briar’s maiden name, which has the advantage (for Zeke at least) in that Briar’s father is something of a folk hero amongst the poor, disrepute, and downtrodden of the Outskirts.  The pair scrapes by, at least until Zeke hares off to the Blight filled Seattle in order to clear the name of both his father and grandfather, who the not-so downtrodden believe was a criminal.  It isn’t long before Briar and copious amounts of adventure and excitement, follow.

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Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail  Carriger
Soulless by Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger
Orbit, 2009 (Forthcoming September 29, 2009)

Soulless is a supernatural steampunk romance from debut author Gail Carriger.  Soulless owes a lot to Jane Austen and, as far as I can tell (having only read the zombie infused remix), Pride and Prejudice in particular.  The novel follows a one Alexia Tarabotti who, as her name shows, despite being British was “cursed” with an Italian father.  Alexia is a self-professed spinster who also happens to have no soul in the most literal sense.  Known as a preternatural her soulless existence means that her touch cancels out the supernatural abilities of the various “immortals” that populate London.  Consisting mostly of Werewolves and Vampires Alexia’s London is one in which humans and immortals live side by side with full knowledge of one another’s existence.

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Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

Scott Westerfeld with art by Keith Thompson
Forthcoming Simon Pulse, 2009 (October 6)

In my continuing exploration of several Steampunk titles this month my signed ARC from BEA of Westerfeld’s Leviathan marks my first and only foray into a YA steampunk title.  Which is regrettable since Leviathan is an exciting novel full of imagination, adventure, and excitement in spades.  Leviathan starts in June of 1914  as the fictional son of Archduke Ferdinand, Aleksander, is whisked away on the eve of his parents murder.  Loaded into a Stormwalker, a mechanized military walker, he and his two mentors flee towards the Swiss border.  Meanwhile, young Deryn Sharp disguises herself as a boy in order to enter the British air service whose genetically engineered animals take the place of the mechanized constructs of the Austrian empire.  Deryn, thanks to a mishap involving the a jellyfish-based air creature, finds herself aboard the titular Leviathan and airship composed mostly out of a whale but in truth a living ecosystem unto itself.

If all that sounds wildly imaginative then you’d be absolutely correct.  It is also a joy to read.

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Review: Whitechapel Gods by S. M. Peters

Whitechapel Gods by S. M. Peters
Whitechapel Gods by S. M. Peters

Whitechapel Gods
S. M. Peters
Roc, 2008

Whitechapel Gods marks my first foray into the steampunk genre during my steampunk extravaganza this month.  It is perhaps a bit of an odd book for a first choice since it is entirely lacking in airships and heavier on horror then adventure but it is rife with clockwork automatons and steam powered weaponry.  In truth Whitechapel Gods is something like steampunk as envisioned by H. P. Lovecraft or Stephen King.

In a post-industrial London, Whitecapel has been walled off by the strange deific figure known as Grandfather Clock, inscrutible and unwilling consort to the even more unfathomable Mama Engine.  Smoke and toxic gases turn the already dingy atmosphere of Whitechapel into a hostile place while a horrid clockwork disease transforms citizens into horrid amalgams of man and machine; robbing them of any hope of death.  Men given over to Grandfather Clock collect citizens to be added to a monstrous construction of man and machine while silent automatons known as the Boiler Men enforce Grandfather Clocks will and stamps out rebellion.  Amidst this oppressive atmosphere a rag-tag bunch of criminals and patriots seek to kill both gods and free the downtrodden citizens of Whitechapel.  Whitechapel Gods is a novel rife with familiar sights twisted into horrific visages and though the novel suffers from some issues with pacing manages to ensnare its reader with that imagery.

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