Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Steampunk Recomendations

A lot of people have asked me for recommendations of steampunk works that they can read and enjoy, in order to get a better feel for the genre. I'm always happy to compose individual lists for each person, but I figured that perhaps a better and more efficient (my boss's watchword) idea is to compose a list on here that I can point further requests to.

So, without further ado, I give you the Not-All-That-Comprehensive List of Steampunk Recommendations!

The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling is, according to many, THE definitive steampunk work. For my money, I prefer to recognize it as the first book that pushed steampunk from minor obscurity inside speculative fiction up on the path to where the genre is today.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is one of the proto-steampunk works. Pretty much any of Wells' science fiction falls into the category of proto-steampunk. You might be asking yourself what "proto-steampunk" means. Well that particular term means that the fiction of Wells, Jules Verne, Mark Twain, and Mary Shelley (yes, Frankenstein counts) help to influence the attitude of  most modern steampunk works.

Whitechapel Gods by S.M. Peters is alternate history steampunk, where the Whitechapel district of London was taken over by crazy steam-fueled gods and clockwork men that battle against the "plucky human resistance." It sounds like every other resistance fights the power story, but it's kind of cool nonetheless. Read it for the worldbuilding if nothing else.

Soulless by Gail Carriger is what's called a "steampunk romance." It's a very interesting concept, based on what I've read so far, and I'm looking forward to reading the story once I get a chance (yes I bought a romance novel -- this will make two that I've willingly read).

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield and the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman are both good-quality examples of YA steampunk. Westerfield's work is alternate history, whereas Pullman composes fantasy steampunk. Both do masterful jobs at building their steam-powered worlds. And Westerfield includes an appendix explaining history as it actually happened!

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville is a prototypical tale of fantasy steampunk. Some of my readers might recognize Mieville's name from his book Un Lun Dun, a young-adult fantasy, and probably already know more about his style than I do.

My plan is to add to this list of recommendations as time goes on and I find more examples of quality steampunk literature.

Your thoughts on my suggestions are appreciated, as always.


Shannon O'Donnell said...

I'm eager to read Leviathan. many of the others are new to me. thanks for the recommendations, Matt.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I've seen Soulless on a blog and was intrigued. You should post a review after you're done. My TBR pile is massive right now- I'm trying to restrain myself until I can knock a few more books out.

fairyhedgehog said...

Some interesting recommendations. I've only read The Time Machine. I'll bookmark this to come back to.

Joshua McCune said...

I read the first few pages of Soulless via Amazon and really enjoyed the writing. Seems like it should be fun. The only one I've read otherwise is PP's HDM, which I enjoyed thoroughly until book 2.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts are grateful thoughts. (And I love Westerfeld. Leviathan was so much fun!)

K. Marie Criddle said...

Great list, Matt! In addition, I highly recommend AIRBORN by Kenneth Oppel (and its sequels...number three comes out this year!) for YA. Full of airship-y, pirate-y, fiery red-headed-y romantical goodness.

In addition, SOULLESS just won an ALEX award for being (awesome as well as) an adult book appealing directly to YA audiences. Hooray!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the list! I've been wanting some good steampunk recommendations.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Thanks for the recs!

Adam Heine said...

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. Mother has to rescue her 15-year-old son from zombies in 19th-century Seattle. Also, airships!

And this isn't a book, but it's pretty definitive (by which I mean it's got all the proper steambells and steamwhistles): Katsuhiro Otomo's Steamboy. Young inventor Ray Steam gets caught up in the struggle between his father and grandfather, whose views on how their inventions should be used differ radically.

Art Donovan said...

A most excellent list and a wonderful blog.


Art Donovan

dolorah said...

Thanks for the recommendations.


Adam Heine said...

Thought of another one for the list: Steampunk, an anthology put together by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.