Skip to content

Tag: steampunk

READING THE TBR, DAY 296: The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl (2019) by Theodora Goss

A third day in a row spent with the extraordinary ladies of the Athena Club was very well spent, as Mary Jekyll and her unlikely associates battle once again against the dastardly doings of the world-spanning alchemist conspiracy, while also trying to discover the whereabouts of Sherlock Holmes — in whom our Mary is increasingly interested, despite herself — missing these several days.

Also missing is Alice, the Club’s beloved housemaid, and it turns out that, just like her employers, young Alice also has a genetic heritage of strangeness, for which she is much coveted by certain elements of ruthless Victorian villainy.

It’s all a bit silly, at times, especially the levels of coincidence that are required to make most of the plot work, but it is entertaining nevertheless, and the ladies’ usual interpolations to the writing of the novel are made even more humorous by scribe Catherine Moreau’s increasingly self-promotion-y advertisements throughout the text.

I do hope this won’t be the last outing for the Athena Club. And in the meantime, I have discovered that Theodora Goss has several other books in her backlist, which I have already bought. Because, it seems, far from clearing books from my TBR with this daily reading lark, I am actually adding to my TBR far more frequently that I would have thought possible.

Sigh.

But also: yay!

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 296: The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club #3) by Theodora Goss
GENRE: Steampunk
PUBLISHED: 2019
TIME ON THE TBR: 2 weeks!  
PURCHASED FROM: Amazon.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 295: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman (2018) by Theodora Goss

The next adventure of the newly-formed Athena Club, a group of literature-adjacent young women variously experimented on or deeply affected by said experiments, sees them travel to Europe to rescue the kidnapped Lucy Van Helsing.

They make some new friends, uncover more details of the evil world-spanning conspiracy that continues to shape all of their lives, and bond ever more over their terrible parents and shared differences.

It’s great. Not as great as the first installment, since that one came as such a fun surprise half of the fun of it was just discovering one literary allusion after another. But great, nonetheless.

So great, I am going immediately onto the next — and possibly last — one.

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 295: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club #2) by Theodora Goss
GENRE: Steampunk
PUBLISHED: 2018
TIME ON THE TBR: ~1 year.  
PURCHASED FROM: Amazon.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 294: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017) by Theodora Goss

With the third book in this series just released, I at last decided to read the trilogy, the first two of which I bought on a whim because the title of this one just would not be denied.

It is told in rather scattershot fashion, in a kind of meta way, in which the characters of the story oversee the story’s construction by one of their number.

It makes sense when you read it. 

The alchemist’s daughter of the title is one Miss Mary Jekyll, who is left almost penniless upon the death of her secretive father. As she begins to investigate Dr. Jekyll’s mysterious death, and life, however, Mary comes into contact with the fractious Diana Hyde and three other young women with somewhat unnatural origins — Catherine Moreau, Beatrice Rappacini and Justine Frankenstein — and they uncover a sinister plot by pseudo-scientists of the Victorian era who aim to rule the world.

Throw in a suave appearance by ace detective Sherlock Holmes (whom the ever-upright Mary finds strangely attractive), and this book becomes a thorough delight of fantastical imagining — and reimagining — that is a pure delight. 

Onwards to the sequel immediately go I!

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 294: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club #1) by Theodora Goss
GENRE: Steampunk
PUBLISHED: 2017
TIME ON THE TBR: 1 year.  
PURCHASED FROM: Amazon.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 89: Warehouse 13: A Touch of Fever (2011) by Greg Cox

I bought this book a few years back when I was deep in a Warehouse 13 binge-fest, working my way through all five seasons. This is the only media tie-in novel released for the show, which is something of a shame, since its steampunky wackiness is almost perfectly designed for the written word, when a Syfy Channel special effects budget is no longer an issue.

The series follows the escapades of Agents Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering, dragooned into the world of the Warehouse and tasked with tracking down magical artifacts that have been imbued with great power by close association to historical personages and events.

In this novel, the artifacts causing trouble include Countess Báthory’s bathtub, Johnny Appleseed’s cider pot, a problematic totem pole, and Civil War nurse Clara Barton’s  gloves, among others, and Greg Cox does an excellent job of evoking the TV show’s general insanity while having dual crises to be faced by Pete and Myka, as well as archivist Artie and his computer wunderkind protégé, Claudia. All the usual Warehouse 13 beats are hit — the careless storage solutions that cause nothing but problems, one of our Agents in deathly peril, B&B owner Leena being largely useless and unnecessary — and Cox has a nice line in callbacks, mentioning early episodes frequently enough to prove that he actually watched and appreciated the show before signing on to this particular piece of professional fanfic, not always a guarantee in a media tie-in.

But Cox is a veteran of the form, having written for franchises like Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alias, as well as the novelization of multiple blockbuster movies, and so his success with this one should come as no surprise. I really enjoyed reading it, and more than anything it reminded me how much I enjoyed the show on which it is based. Enough to rewatch it? Probably not. But enough to appreciate this further adventure of these old friends? Absolutely. 

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 89: Warehouse 13: A Touch of Fever by Greg Cox  
GENRE: Media Tie-in, Warehouse 13, Syfy, Steampunk
PUBLISHED: 2011
TIME ON THE TBR: 4 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: Amazon.
KEEP: Yep.

READING THE TBR, DAY 2: Mortal Engines (2001) by Philip Reeve

I bought this book back in 2009 when it was announced that Peter Jackson was planning to helm a film adaptation of this award-winning YA steampunk novel… and then promptly forgot about it. This is weird, because I am an avowed adherent of Jackson’s adaptations (a marathon of The Lord of the Rings extended editions is, at the very least, an annual event at my house), and also YA steampunk is very much in my, if you will forgive the pun, wheelhouse.

Pun because this book (and the three that follow it, making up the Mortal Engines Quartet) are about cities on wheels. Specifically, we spend a lot of time in London, many thousands of years in the future, as it rumbles through the wastelands, gobbling up smaller cities on wheels and plotting world domination using old tech from the Ancients. (That’s us, obvs.)

I will confess that I saw the movie a couple of weeks ago, which I wouldn’t normally do, before having read the source material. Oh, there are plenty of adapted films I have seen without reading their basis, of course, but this is mainly because I had no plans to read said books. Or I was unaware the film was an adaptation until it was too late. (Don’t you hate it when you’re already in the cinema when the dreaded “based on the novel by” credit flashes up on the screen? This happens alot, nowadays.)   

I… didn’t love the movie. And I am hardly the only one. It is being called the biggest flop of 2018, or even the worst movie of 2018 in some quarters, which seems pretty harsh in a year that gave us Overboard and Future World. Yes, in my review for Romantic Intentions Quarterly, I called it “Mad Max meets Howl’s Moving Castle meets Stardust, and far less than the sum of those parts.” I said it was “a visually splendid but largely forgettable experience.” All of this is true. But there was enough that was good about it that I wanted to read the book that inspired it. I was certainly intrigued enough by the world we are shown, by the characters we — barely — meet and the hints of greatness sprinkled throughout that I dug out my long-owned copy of the book that began it all, and dove right in.

It really is very, very good. And I can see why Peter Jackson, a man with a grand vision and a penchant for taking risks, would want to try to bring it to life. But I can also see why he, by and large, failed to do so. Because boy oh boy, Mortal Engines is so many things at once — action adventure and allegory and revenge tale and dystopia and gigantic improbable cities on wheels, for goodness sake — that capturing all of that oddity and having it make any kind of sense was always going to be a massive undertaking.

Having seen the film and read the book in such close succession, I can see where cuts were made, characters were eliminated and/or conflated and events were twisted, and mistakes were definitely made there, no doubt about it. The standout characters of the novel — bookish Tom, firebrand Hester, noble Katherine, earnest Bevis, assorted fussy and venerable Historians — are given too short a shrift. In the book, you care about them. You’re invested in Tom and Hester’s burgeoning relationship. More than that, you believe it. I don’t think the same can be said for the film. Meanwhile, zombie cyborg soldier Shrike is great in the film, but so much better in the book. (And in the book, you properly understand that he is a zombie cyborg soldier.)

For all the movie’s flaws, I have to say that I am glad I saw it, if only because it led me to read Mortal Engines. It is a whirlwind of a book, a treasure of a book, with a fascinating (if outlandish) premise, a cast of likable and/or relatable characters, quite thrilling action sequences, and it is not afraid to pull any punches or kill any darlings. YA dystopia is a vast and varied playground in which I have spent many a long year and many a happy/sad/frustrating/glorious hour, but Mortal Engines has now taken its place among my very favourite examples of the genre.

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 2: Mortal Engines (Mortal Engines #1) by Philip Reeve.
GENRE: YA Dystopia/Steampunk
PUBLISHED: 2001
TIME ON THE TBR: 9 years.
PURCHASED FROM: Borders! Somewhere on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. That is how long ago it was that I bought this book.
KEEP: Yes. And I will definitely be reading the sequels.