the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘victorian

ARedSunAlsoRisesA Red Sun Also Rises, by Mark Hodder

published December 2012

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher

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Aiden Fleischer is a conflicted man, more so than most men.  A young and sheltered priest who struggles with his faith, Aiden escapes an extortion scheme by signing up with the Missionary Society. Travelling with him, is his friend and housekeeper Clarissa Stark, whose engineering genius is matched only by her crippling disfigurement. Before long, Aiden and Clarissa find themselves on a remote island near the Solomon Islands, and Aiden begins his task of bringing the Lord’s word to the natives. Who aren’t the slightest bit interested. Also, they are cannibals.

During a ritual gone wrong (or maybe right?) Aiden and Clarissa are sent through a portal to an alien world, where strange insect-like beings welcome them with open arms. Apparently the islanders have been coming here for years to work as servants for the aliens. After Clarissa accidentally falls into a sacred pool, the aliens, known as Yatsill, are able to read her thoughts and memories of London. Soon, the Yatsill are all speaking with almost Cockney accents, and attempting to wear the fashions of 1880’s London, which look ridiculous on their four-legged bodies.

The Yatsill are mimics, able to create and recreate their city, their homes, their language and their fashions to copy memories read from an Earthling’s mind. But they are still just imitating, going through the motions with no understand of what they are doing (Not unlike how Aiden goes through the motions of being a  man of faith, actually). A funny example is the British sounding names many of Yatsill adopt, such as Crockery Clattersmash, Prosper Possibly, and Mordant Reverie. Poor Aiden, he has to keep a straight face the whole time!

The details put into the Yatsill and their planet of Ptallaya are nothing short of astounding.  Hodder lets his imagination run wild, offering up lighter-than-air behemoths who crawl across the landscape by grabbing trees with their hands, huge fruits that hum, and sky scraping tentacled creatures.  Ptallaya itself, is in a unique spot in the universe, which causes all sorts of strange things to happen on its surface. For no other reason, read this for the aliens and their unique planet. Because the Yatsill are just the beginning of what Ptallaya has on offer.

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Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon (Burton & Swinburn #3) by Mark Hodder

published in January 2011

where I got it: received review copy from Pyr

why I read it: Highly enjoyed the first two books in the series, The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack and The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man.

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Shortly after starting this book, I had two predictions. and I was right on both of them.

The year is 1863, but not as it should be.  Two decades of unrestrained genetic engineering and eugenics have nearly covered London with the giant hollowed out insects filled with steam powered machinery, foul mouthed messenger birds and fouler breathed messenger dog-things.  Sir Richard Francis Burton has always felt an outsider in London, but things are getting out of control, even for him.

After an attempt on his life, Burton is approached by Prime Minister Palmerston to return to Africa. The trip will be publicized as another attempt to find the source of the Nile, but in reality, Palmerston has tasked Burton with finding the African Eyes of the Naga.  The Eyes, black diamonds that fell as asteroids, had already been found in Cambodia and South America. Connected to an impossible myth, the shards of the diamonds can retain thoughts impressed upon them.  And Burton isn’t the only one searching for the Eyes.

But meanwhile, we have another story line happening.  It’s 1914, and in the trenches of a Great War far more horrific that the one in your history books, a man has lost his memory.  Befriended by a journalist who recognizes him, the man very slowly regains his memories. What he remembers is even more impossible than the Great War his eyes are showing him.

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The Falling Machine (Society of Steam, book 1), by Andrew Mayer

published in May, 2011

Where I got it: received review copy from PYR

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Being “Victorian”, most steampunk I’ve read takes place in Victorian England, so it was very refreshing to read a steampunk that takes place in the United States. Even better, to a city I’ve visited before, New York City.  Mayer has taken the hustling, bustling, industrializing, Brooklyn-Bridge-just-starting New York City of 1880 and added superheroes, villains, automatons, and mad scientists.

Sarah Stanton, daughter of famed industrialist Alexander Stanton, lives a life of privilege. Although she isn’t supposed to leave her house without a chaperone, and she can’t vote or own property or choose her own husband, Sarah has been allowed to study under the inventor Dennis Darby.  Darby, leader of the international group of superheroes known as The Paragons, and creator of the walking, talking, thinking automaton known as Tom, is Sarah’s favorite person in the whole world.  When Sarah witnesses Darby’s violent death, his dying words regarding the future and her place in it become her responsibility.

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Infernal Devices, by K.W. Jeter

copyright 1987, republished in 2011 with a new introduction and afterword

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it: it’s the April book club book for my local SF reading club. and who doesn’t like Steampunk?

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Interested in Steampunk but not sure where to start?  Looking for some adventure?  I’ll save you the trouble of reading this entire review by simply saying that K. W Jeter’s Infernal Devices is one of the best executed novels I’ve read in a long time, and I easily expect it to be one of my top reads for the year.  I guarantee you will enjoy it.

In a handful of recently published “steampunks” that I’ve read, the steampunk elements are simply window dressing. The story is an adventure, a mystery, and in more cases than not a thinly veiled romance, with a handful of gears, airships, and steam engines thrown in so it can be called steampunk. I’m an elitist snob: pulling shit like that is a major turn off.  So, as an elitist snob, it thrills me to say that Infernal Devices is the genuine article.  No window dressing, no airships just for the sake of airships, no thinly veiled anything. Infernal Devices drips with authenticity, invokes a proper Victorian gentleman’s strong dislike of the unknown, reeks of dank dark drinking dens, and invites you to get lost in a watchmaker’s workshop brimming with beautifully constructed clockwork devices.

George Dower never knew his father well. Raised outside the city by an Aunt, he knows his father, the famous inventor, through reputation only. After a churchly disaster, George keeps his head down and merely attempts to keep his father’s workshop in business.  This proves difficult, as although George can fix a basic watch that needs nothing more than winding, the workshop collects more dust than commissions.

When a strange looking man delivers a complex clockwork device that needs fixing, and offers payment in advance with a strange gold coin, George takes the man’s money before realizing this commission is far beyond his understanding, and that the dark skinned man never gave his name. Read the rest of this entry »

The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, by Mark Hodder

Published March 2011

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher

why I read it: adored the first book in the series, The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, reviewed here.

Enter to Win a Copy of The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, here. Contest is open until March 21.

Welcome to Victorian England, just not the Victorian England you know.  The Queen is dead (so perhaps I should call it Albertian England?), scientists are having a field day with steam powered inventions, eugenicists are having a ball with genetically modified foodstuffs and insects grown to obscene proportions and magic is real.  Well, not magic exactly, but mind control, astral projections, spiritualism, mediumistic techniques to read the future is all very, very real. And it all started back in 1837, when a certain someone had such very good intentions and tried so very hard to fix what had gone horribly wrong.

It’s now 1862, and Sir Richard Francis Burton and his assistant Algernon Swinburne have recovered from the Spring Heeled Jack Affair. The Technologist faction is under control, Isembard Kingdom Brunel has made his new life public, the British government is playing favorites regarding the American War between the states, and Burton continues to be bitter about being passed over for funding for African expeditions.    Although Hodder provides plenty of background information and these are fairly episodic adventures so far, I am reluctant to say you can read The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man as a standalone, as there is a overarching plotline that I believe will become more important than any one adventure.

Hodder  gets the action, adventure, and mystery started right off the bat. Burton and Swinburne investigate an abandoned yet beautifully constructed clockwork man in the middle of a public square, which leads to a theft of famous black diamonds, the untimely death of Charles Babbage, a disturbing  vision of Burton’s future, a homeless philosopher who seems to suffer from multiple personality disorder, the mythology behind the rest of the black diamonds, and a haunted estate. Oh, and fairies, whatever you do, don’t forget the fairies. Read the rest of this entry »

London: the 1860′s. Upperclass British gents fund explorations to Africa, Asia and beyond. Bored dilettantes drink wine, write poetry, and look for direction in their lives. The working class works tirelessly, and the upper class spends money like it’s going out of style.

Mark Hodder’s Victorian London isn’t exactly the London we know from history. The streets are clogged with smog belching penny farthings, and genetically modified domesticated animals carry messages across town. A technological revolution has come early, with the digital revolution fast on it’s heels. Arguing in the taverns are the Libertines and the Technologists, the former being both luddite and libertarian, and the latter filling the streets with their inventions as they push science further every day.

Mark Hodder writes a London that could have been, populated by people you might recognize. But this is who they could have been, who and what they might have become, had things been just a little different. The London of The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack isn’t known as the “Victorian Age”, because young Victoria was assassinated at the age of 20, and Albert became King. And every page is fantastically delicious, whether you know your British history or not.

A debate has been scheduled between explorers Sir Richard Francis Burton and John Speke, but it’s cancelled at the last minute, as Speke has attempted to kill himself. Soon after, Burton is attacked by a creature known as Spring Heeled Jack, and the creature bluntly tells Burton to sod off.

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This review was originally posted here.

Grandfather Clock, a clockpunk horror wonder, sees all that happens beneath every clock face in the city. Families and shop owners without a clock in every room can be considered traitorous, and can be harassed or arrested at any moment by his Goldcloaks, men who have given their lives and natural bodies to Grandfather Clock’s cause of strict logic and perfect motion. Mama Engine lives forever in the Stack, a black-cloud-belching prison in the center of the city. She requires human bodies to work her engines and power her machines. The orphans and thieves of the city know if they are ever caught by Mama Engine’s Blackcloaks, their humanity will be lost to the Stack. For some children and residents of Whitechapel, however, this comes as relief. They have yet to learn there are worse things than death. Grandfather Clock and Mama Engine are not people; they are the Whitechapel Gods. And Baron Atlas Hume and beggar king John Scared are their prophets.

In S.M. Peters’ fantastically re-rendered, slum-ridden Victorian Whitechapel, the world is ruled by steam, metal and oil. Most residents of the city have been affected in some way by the Clacks, a mechanical disease where the body is slowly infected with gears, machinery, oil and steam. This is romantic steampunk gone lethal.

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This review was originally published here

One day in a ficticious Victorian almost London, Miss Temple was uncerimoniously dumped by her fiance Roger. Thinking she will catch him with another woman, she follows him to the train station, onto a train, to a country manor, and into a blushworthy masked ball full pawns, scantily dressed women, greedy aristocrats, desperately ambitious servants, and more intrigue and conspiracy than you can shake a stick at. Miss Temple returns home the next morning covered in someone else’s blood, and wearing a thin white robe that isn’t hers.

At the masked ball, a criminal known as Cardinal Chang (he is neither ordained, nor Asian) finds the man he was hired to kill is already dead, not to mention horrifically scarred. The next morning, Chang is hired to find a short young woman who was at the masked ball and was seen leaving in a white robe and covered in blood. Chang may be a hired killer, but he doesn’t enjoy the work, and has quite the chivalrous side.

Dr. Abalard Svenson of Macklenburg discovers a conspiracy that the Prince of Macklenburg has become the victim of. A loyal servant of the crown, and not knowing the details of the con, Dr. Svenson attends the ball in the hopes of rescuing his Prince from the scheme stemming from his engagement to the daughter of a wealthy mining magnate. Svenson has spent his entire life loyally serving his country, and he doesn’t expect to stop now.

Temple, Chang, and Svenson make an unlikely team – the naïve debutante who has the cash, the professional criminal with the weapons and skills to use them, and the military doctor with the government connections, and find themselves embroiled in a conspiracy that would make any sane person change their name and leave the country.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.