Tag Archives: Steampunk

Hands off my Steampunk, Prada.

Trust the fashion world to annoy me.

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A rogue click on this image on the Tor Books blog had me thinking that we would be receiving a big-budget Steampunk flick with Gary Oldman, Willem Dafoe, Jamie Bell and Garrett Hedlund doing their best, pseudo-Victorian poses on the big screen.

Alas, we are denied.

This is part of fashion house Prada‘s new Menswear campaign for the Autumn, which is taking serious stylistic cues from all things Steamy, Punky and ever so slightly nerdy.  It has to be said that it is the latter thing which annoys me the most, as high fashion tends to eschew the geeky in preference to perpetrating the pursuit of glacial cool above all else, which is perhaps the least interesting thing that I can conceive of.   The eternal pursuit of cool = the absolute pursuit of humourless self-defeat, mark my aphorisms.

That said, this shot of Jamie Bell and Gary Oldman makes me yearn for some high-end, next-gen, Bizarro World incarnation of hyper-nerdy PC real-time strategy game, “Command and Conquer“, with these fine thesps hamming it up in a Steampunk World War scenario.  Make it so, current “C & C” devs!

In the name of Mecha Queen Victoria – attack!

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Steamy Star Wars

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Awesome Steampunk versions of your “Star Wars” faves from absurdly talented artist Bjorn Hurri are available here for your perusal.

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Steampunk Joy for Aether-crazed Girls & Boys…

Thank the Crooked Warden!  That ever-so-nice Rob at Topless Robot has brought to my attention this short film by the Media Design School, based on artist Greg Broadmore’s ‘Doctor Grordbort’ steampunk universe…

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“‘The Deadliest Game” is proof positive that the only barrier these days to awesome geekdom and heady nerdery is a little bit of cash, a bit of vision and a lot of hard work – it has obvious echoes of the visual style of “Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow” but a sense of whimsy and affection for retro-futuristic adventure which is all its own.

I liked it quite a lot – why not fire up your steam-assisted entertainment-visualiser and see it for yourself?

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A literary update…

As detailed in previous posts, I have been devoting much of my leisure time to reading of late – games and films have taken a back seat (although I did play through the “Mass Effect 3” demo on 360 and loved it).

To bring you entirely up to date, this week I have somehow found time to read…

“Triumff – Her Majesty’s Hero” by Dan Abnett (Angry Robot books), “Nekropolis” by Tim Waggoner (Angry Robot) and “Changeless” by Gail Carriger (Orbit books).

Triumff - a swiss army knife of a book...

“Triumff” is best described as a ‘Blackadder’-like, alternate history swashbuckler with the titular hero inadvertently and grudgingly fighting a conspiracy to kill the Queen in a Britain where the Empire never quite ended, magic is very real and puns are as lethal as a good blade.

Dan Abnett knows swashbuckling and is – I would argue – without peer when it comes to large-scale action sequences.  He’s also genuinely funny and possessed of a gift for the pun which staggers the mind and emboldens the heart.  This is a great romp – in the very best sense of the word – and is highly recommended to you if you enjoy adventure, invention (there’s a prodigious hit rate of ideas and some very cool world building in this novel), comedy and character.

My limbs are falling off - your argument is invalid.

Tim Waggoner’s “Nekropolis” is the first in his series of supernatural detective novels featuring former human cop and reluctant zombie P.I., Matt Richter.

This is a book where the cover directed me to take a punt with it and I’m glad that I did – this is a really enjoyable tale of mystery, murder, drugs and mayhem in a world of the dead so off-kilter and matter-of-factly strange that it makes Tim Burton’s films look like an episode of “EastEnders”.

Richter inhabits the titular city of Nekropolis, where the dead, the undead, the uncanny and the archetypal creatures of the horror genre exist in an uneasy détente – everybody wants to rule the place, be it vampires, werewolves, ghosts or the otherwise living-impaired, but no one creature can gain full control.

If you like your horror fiction scary but not gross, your detective hard-boiled but essentially decent with it and your romantic lead to be steadily decomposing, you should think about giving this book a try.

If you have engineer's goggles, prepare to don them...

Finally this week, I read Gail Carriger‘s second instalment of her ‘Parasol Protectorate‘ series, “Changeless”.

When talking about the first novel in the series, “Soulless”, I did raise some minor misgivings that I had regarding the contemporary idioms used in the book, which I felt took me out of the otherwise delightful world that Ms Carriger has created.  Those issues still remain in the second book – would it kill the editors of the UK edition to replace the word ‘stoop’ with the word ‘step’ when a scene depicts somebody waiting outside a house? – but I was able to put them firmly to one side and concentrate on enjoying the second steampunk romantic adventure for Alexia Tarrabotti, the now Lady Maccon and erstwhile preternatural at large for Queen Victoria.

Some reviews of this book took issue with storytelling decisions which separate characters for large sections of the narrative and with an ending which left me feeling oddly bereft and exclaiming to the delightful Mrs Rolling Eyeballs “You can’t end a book like that!  That’s like the climax of  “The Empire Strikes Back”, that is!”.

I know why people feel like that – by this point, you don’t want anything too terrible to happen to Alexia, Ivy, Lord Maccon and the cast – but I feel that the decisions that Carriger made with her second novel were very much for the best and ultimately made it a far more compelling tale than the first book was.

Partly this could be because a large part of the action is set in Scotland, which I love dearly.  Partly it could be due to the fact that the steampunk elements in this book are really well-balanced and cleverly integrated into the story – there are gadgets and stylistic inclusions which add to the sense of the world being drawn before you and don’t detract from the story moving along.

And move along it does – this is a book which is pacy but never breathless and leaves you absolutely needing to start the next book in the series as soon as you put “Changeless” down.  I venture that for some folks this will absolutely be a ‘one-sitting’ read and no higher recommendation can I give it than that.

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A Season of Vamps: “Soulless” by Gail Carriger

Book one of the 'Parasol Protectorate' series.

I believe that, back in the dim and ill-storied  pre-history of this blog, I promised a forthcoming review of this very novel.  My somewhat eccentric grasp of the word ‘forthcoming’ notwithstanding, here is that very review.  Not before time, but why unduly rush a good thing?

Gail Carriger‘s first novel in her “Parasol Protectorate” series of Steampunk/Paranormal Romance/Historical tales concerns the adventures of Victorian spinster Alexia Tarabotti, the unfashionably free-thinking and vaguely tolerated eldest daughter of a well-to-do family who has secrets.

Preternatural, ‘I don’t actually have a soul’-type secrets.  The sort that can really put a crimp in one’s social standing and must be kept under wraps at all costs.  Putting aside the notion that the soul is kind of a nebulous, hard-to-grasp concept that you might not really believe in, making Alexia devoid of a soul does serve a neat, plot-friendly purpose in this novel, as it’s her most effective weapon against the other supernatural creatures walking openly through Carriger’s subtly be-Steampunked Victorian London.

Queen Victoria - she knew the score when it came to the Supernatural Classes.

You see, Vampires and Werewolves are out of the closet in this series and don’t skulk in the shadows as they would in other fantasy novels – they’re tolerated, if not entirely accepted, and quite the fashionable inclusion at society parties, albeit under certain strictures and with the eye of civil service-like organisations always on them.

Alexia’s path towards ignoble and anonymous spinsterdom is interrupted rudely by a vampire attack at a social occasion, a state of affairs made much worse by the unfortunate fact that the vampire in question is a rove (or unregistered) creature of the night.  It’s just not the done thing to have a vampire roaming the streets of London who doesn’t belong to a hive and who isn’t under the strict command of a queen – so the question on Alexia’s lips (after she accidentally stakes the creature with her trusty parasol) is ‘where did he come from?’.

And that’s the jumping off point for the book – somebody in London is very interested in creating supernatural creatures and nobody – not annoyingly sexy Scottish Alpha Werewolf  Conall Maccon, nor socially connected, camp-as-Christmas Vampire Lord Akeldama – knows what’s going on and the local Vampire Hive is acting as only Vampire societies in genre fiction can do (by being uptight, nose-in-the-air ancient elitists who want to handle their own murky business and don’t mind if that means that blameless folk die whilst they get to the bottom of things).

Stating upfront that I genuinely enjoyed the novel – I’ve got the next two books in the series in my bedside reading pile, all ready to go – I do have some minor reservations to address about the book.

A minor thing for me – the male characters are a little too archetypal at times.  Lord Akeldama, Alexia’s vampire confidante, is the camp, fashion-fixated Creature of the Night who is equal parts Perez Hilton-esque, networking gossip monger and scheming supernatural king-maker and is accordingly politely ostracised by the society he finds himself in – too supernatural for the night-time world, not proper enough for the daytime establishment.  If your Character Generator bingo card has Akeldama firmly in the ‘Fabulous, Fierce and Fanged’ category, be sure to tick it off now.

Maccon the werewolf is a rough-around-the-edges Scotsman whose habit for speaking his mind puts him on the outs with the genteel social circles which he finds himself moving in.  He’s a sketch rather than a character, but he does become more likeable as the book draws on – and I enjoyed the way that Alexia’s preternatural talent (she can stop vampires in their tracks by touching them, likewise reversing lycanthropic effects in one so cursed by being in physical contact) prevented him from fulfilling the ‘lusty Celtic rogue’ template which he could otherwise have fallen into.

I had to keep reminding myself that a large aspect of the book is its treatment of romance and relationships in a time where no easy roadmap for such territory existed and perhaps my misgivings are drawn from the fact that I don’t usually read fiction where love and sex (or the confusions which arise thereafter) figure greatly.

One thing which irked me, which isn’t due to my gender or previous reading habits, is some of the language used by characters.   A defensive fan might cite the fact that this novel has a sense of anachronism about it by virtue of having Steampunk elements in play and so some relaxation of concern for the speech patterns and idioms of the characters is fair.

Nice try, but no – as it were – cigar.

Even in this period of time, no British person of my acquaintance would use the word ‘figure’ in the context of discovering or mentally juggling with a complex issue.  We don’t ‘figure things out’ – we work things out or solve a problem.  It’s a minor point but it jumps out at a British reader, particularly as the world being drawn is so particular to our history and sense of ourselves.  I know that Alexia is partly of Italian parentage but we’re never told that she’s had any particular contact with America, Americans or American vernacular so it just seems jarring to have her (and other characters) use linguistic forms which probably hadn’t been devised yet.

I know that this is nit-picking of the most mundane variety but it did distract me and it may do the same for you, too.

That minor issue done and dusted with, I have to say that I really enjoyed and recommend the book to you if you like your adventures fast-paced, romantic and witty.  It’s a very well-paced and energetic novel which has to undertake some world-building  initially but does so in a really fairly subtle, quick way which doesn’t burden the reader with retaining lots of information Which Will Become More Important Later On.

Gail Carriger. A fan of tea. As well she should be.

I’ve jumped into the next book in the series, “Changeless”, and in the 10 to 15 pages that I’ve read so far Ms Carriger has addressed some of the issues that I’ve had with the language and tone of the characters – it reads as the work of somebody who is more comfortable with her characters, with the idioms she’s choosing to work with and knows that she has a readership who is going to follow Alexia Tarrabotti’s adventures wherever they might lead.

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Steampunk Star Wars Awesomeness

I love the SF community...

I love the SF community...

Via the SteamFashion LiveJournal group (and the always fantastic Geek Orthodox – welcome back Reis!), SteamPunk Star Wars CosPlay awesomeness.  That is all.

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