the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘steampunk

In the Company of Thieves, by Kage Baker

Published November 2013

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher

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I’ve been a devotee of Baker since reading her The Anvil of the World, a hilarious fantasy adventure novel. Then I read the first company novel, In The Garden of Iden, and I fell in love with her dry humor, her snarky immortals, and the innocence of a new hire who never asked for any of this. Kage Baker is one of those authors who should be on the shelf of any speculative fiction fan.  Once you read her, you’ll understand what all the fuss is about.

In the Company of Thieves is a collection of six Company stories, many which were previously published, including The Women of Nell Gwynne, Rude Mechanicals, and Mother Aegypt.  Kage Baker was very close with her sister Kathleen, and each story has a very short introduction by Kathleen, giving some background about when or why it was written, sometimes why Kage was drawn to that location or plotline. The Baker sisters grew up in California, so many of the stories take place in some of Kage’s favorite places in California. The final story in the volume, Hollywood Ikons, was finished by Kathleen after Kage’s death.

Not sure what Baker’s “The Company” is?  The best summary I can find for The Company is on the blurb for the book, so I shall borrow it:

“The Company, a powerful corporate entity in the twenty-fourth century, has discovered a nearly foolproof recipe for success: immortal employees and time travel. They specialize in retrieving extraordinary treasures out of the past, gathered by cybernetically enhanced workers who pass as ordinary people. or at least try to pass. . .

There is one rule at Dr. Zeus Incorporated that must not be broken: Recorded history cannot be changed. But avoiding the attention of mortals while stealing from them? It’s definitely not on the company manual”.

Immortal cyborgs stealing stuff? Historical fiction? Madcap adventures and tricking dumb mortals?  Where do I sign up?

Rude Mechanicals – Anytime recurring Company characters Joseph and Lewis show up, you know trouble and hijinks are on the horizon. A Shakespearian comedy of errors, the story takes place in 1930’s Hollywood. Lewis is working as an assistant and translator for the famous German director Max Reinhardt, who is directing and producing an outdoor version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Joseph has been tasked with acquiring Reinhardt’s notes for The Company, so it’s a good thing Lewis is an expert forger. To complicate matters (and by complicate, I mean create hilarious situations for the reader to enjoy!), Reinhardt keeps digging up trees to make his set look better, and his earthworks are getting way to close to a particular buried treasure that needs to stay buried for a little while longer, as per Company request. Comedy of Errors ensues, with a secret diamond getting passed off as costume jewelry, getting actually stolen, and actually gotten back. Lewis makes the perfect “straight man”, a guy who just wants to do his job, not get fired, and get some damn sleep. Joseph on the other hand, thinks this is the most fun he’s had in centuries!

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Like this stuff?

  • Civil War era alternate history
  • zombies
  • giant lizards
  • pop culture references
  • huge explosions
  • airships
  • airships with zombies on them
  • carnies

what if all that awesome stuff was jammed into one book?  well good news, IT IS! And I reviewed it, just for you!  head over to SFSignal to read my review of Odd Men Out by Matt Betts.

odd men out

Ayelsford Skull Main 2_1.jpg.size-230The Aylesford Skull, by James P. Blaylock

published January 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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Langdon St. Ives had plans.  Those plans involved spending as much time as possible in the country, enjoying the company of his wife, and raising his children in peace. His most recent case ended badly, and St. Ives needs time to reassess, to recover, to figure out what went wrong.

So much for having plans.

In short order, a grave robberry is discovered near his country home, a woman is murdered, his wife is nearly poisoned, and his son Eddie is kidnapped. All these crimes were perpetrated by Dr. Narbondo, with whom St. Ives has had previous dealings. The Aylesford Skull is just the most recent in Blaylock’s Langdon St Ives adventures, but thanks to some concise yet very well presented character introductions, the readers knows everything they need to know to enjoy the story without having read previous tales involving Professor St. Ives.

Narbondo didn’t just dig up a random grave, he chose one involving a particularly horrid family secret, and took the skull of the child’s corpse.  Using tiny machinery and photos of the deceased, Narbondo makes creeptastic ghost trapping lamps out of the skulls he has stolen over the years.  It’s believed his final goal is to open a pathway between the world of the living and that of the dead.

And that’s the just the beginning! Once the action gets started in this steampunk thriller, it doesn’t stop! While St. Ives and his trusted friends set out to rescue Eddie, the medium Mother Laswell endeavors to save the soul of her own son, and even side characters have their own missions and goals. From the tunnels and alehouses of London to the marshes and rivers of the surrounding countryside, Blaylock whisks the reader along through an all immersive and atmospheric adventure.

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Red will be home any day now, better make this last give away count. I should totally do a double.  maybe two books that go together? two books with really sweet cover art that are a blast to read?

found ‘em!

today’s give away is for Mike Resnick’s wonderfully weird wild west steampunk adventures The Buntline Special and The Doctor and The Kid (ARC).  Get entered in the give away by leaving a comment down below. See the rules below, and get your entry in!

Teh rules:
- you can only enter once in each give away, but you are highly encouraged to enter in more than one!
- Give aways are open to all residents of Earth, keeping in mind that shipping outside the US takes a little longer.
- all give aways in this weekend series will close on Friday, June 1.

Holiday decorations take-down-ing getting you down?  Winter is just beginning, so why not decorate your home with paper snowflakes? It was all the rage when I was a kid in the 80′s.

Into Steampunk? create yourself some steampunk gear snowflakes!  I call ‘em GearFlakes.  They are easy to make, require zero fancy tools, and you can have a lot of fun setting them up in geared patterns on your window.  Let the whole neighborhood know a steampunk geek lives here! You don’t even need a compass. or a protractor. I promise.  It’s six way symmetry steampunk awesome.

What’s this you say? you want step by step instructions?  Today, and today only, your wish is my command!

you’ll need:

paper
pencil
sharp scissors
two bowls, one larger than the other (Or I suppose you could use a compass, if you really, really wanted to)

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The Doctor and The Kid by Mike Resnick (sequel to The Buntline Special)

Published Dec 2011

where I got it: received review copy from Pyr

why I read it: enjoyed The Buntline Special, the first book in the series.

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A fun, easy read, The Doctor and The Kid should probably be categorized as Young Adult. There is some mild swearing, and references to sex, but there is nothing in this book your teen hasn’t read before.  With a fairly simple plot and fun characters, it’s a good foil to all the heavy dense doorstopper melt-your-brain books that have been floating around lately.

It’s known, that I’ve a major weakness for tragic characters. And do they come any more tragic than Doc Holliday?  Wracked with consumption, as unflinchingly honest as he was bitter, he knew death was right around the corner, so why fear anything in life?

Resnick’s The Doctor and the Kid most certainly is not the true story of Doc Holliday, but it is a fun one.   Advertised as a steampunk western, The Doctor and the Kid doesn’t have a lot of action in it, Doc simply hasn’t got that kind of energy.  More a character study of Holliday and how he’s forced to realize that people don’t care that he’s classically educated or coughing up blood all the time – all they want to know is how many people he’s killed.  He’s not at all the person people think he is, and that was my favorite aspect of this book.

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Terminal World, by Alastair Reynolds

Published in May 2011

Where I got it: purchased new

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I read Alastair Reynold’s debut novel Revelation Space last year, and while it was pretty good, I wasn’t as thrilled as I’d hoped to be by this award winning author.   I gave him another chance with Terminal World, and boy am I happy I did.  In Terminal World, Reynolds offers what Space Opera fans love to find: a glimpse into a possible future of humanity, technology gone  wrong, futuristic cities, and wildernesses full of danger and carnivorous cyborgs chasing steampunk airships. Wait, what?  Ahh yes, the carnivorous cyborgs. Just the first of many wonderful surprises that awaits you in Terminal World.  And who said you can’t have Steampunk space opera?

Spearpoint, the tallest structure on Earth, is the last human city.  Doctor Quillon has been hiding in it’s depths for nine years. He was always a doctor, he just wasn’t always what you or I would consider human.  Once he dwelled  in the Celestial Levels, looking down at the pathetic pre-humans below him. Now he cuts his wings off and wears glasses to hide his post-human angelic eyes.  The few people who know his true identity are corrupt themselves, or dead.  When a dying angel tells Quillon that he’s wanted back in the Celestial Levels, Quillon decides if he wants to live, he has to run.

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As usual, it’s been a wonderfully book-y couple of weeks. Thanks to Quercus books and PYR I got some much anticipated ARCs:

I feel privileged to have  gotten an ARC of Mazarkis Williams’ The Emperor’s Knife, it looks incredible.  Epic fantasy, but not as we know it (or at least, not exactly).  Tattoos that take over your mind as they take over your body, intricate games, battles of the mind. . .   this baby just got jumped to the top of the TBR list. 2011 has been a year of incredible epic fantasy for me, and so much of what I’ve read has been the first or second book in a series, with the next book expected sometime in 2012/2013.   I love that every year it just gets better and better!!

Mike Resnick’s The Doctor and the Kid is the sequel to last year’s The Buntline Special. A wild wild west full of steampunk inventions and Native American magic, it’s not the deepest thing you’ll ever read, but it was a helluva lot of fun.  Westerns typically haven’t been my thing, but Resnick’s Doc Holliday rocked my world.

My fave local family owned bookstore wooed me with “we got in a whole ton of classic SF, come on by and take a look”. Good thing I left my debit card at home, otherwise I would have bought a car payment’s worth of classic SF. I managed to walk outta there with just these two: Read the rest of this entry »

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer

Published July 2011

Where I got it: rec’d  a review copy from Harper Voyager

Why I read it: have been following this doctor for a while, and I want to get my hands on anything Jeff VanderMeer is involved in

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In homage of the Neatorama game that would have an utter nerdgasm if faced with Dr Lambshead’s Cabinet of Curiosities, I offer you the ultimate meta’d “What is it?” game: The Thackery T Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities itself.

Well, what is it? Exhibition? Self guided museum tour? Self referential satire? A massive inside joke? Eulogy? An unearthing of the madness of a harmless eccentric? I think a line from the movie Catch Me if You Can, (which coincidentally came out the year before Lambshead’s death) sums it up nicely: “people only know what you tell ‘em”.

Dr Thackery T Lambshead was born in 1900. Trained as a physician and scientist, but a true renaissance man, Dr. Lambshead travelled the world, collecting things here and there, making sure other things got back to their home countries, filling countless diaries with descriptions along the way. Briefly married in the 1950’s, the doctor may have never fully recovered from his wife’s tragic death in a car accident. Filling his home with collectibles and oddities, and occasionally culling the collection by permanently lending items out to museums, he became more and more eccentric. After his death in 2003, appraisers made their way through his home, discovering wonder after bizarre wonder, and trying to connect the objects to descriptions and references found in Thackery’s diaries. And then they happened on the secret underground bunker, a cabinet of curiosities that made the upstairs collection look like nothing more than a museum gift shop.

The Thackery T Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities then, is a collection of remembrances of the doctor himself, descriptions (and some outright guesses) of the strange items found in his home, and most importantly it is an attempt to discover what would cause a man to fill his home with such strange and disturbing things. With entries by Ted Chiang, Rachel Swirsky, Charles Yu, Michael Cisco and Reza Negarestani, Lev Grossman, Naomi Novik among many, many others, along with corresponding artwork and photographs, this is a book that’s more than a book. It’s a curiosity unto itself, an experience, a portal, a self guided tour through the mind of someone whose collection created him as much as he created his collection.

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I couldn’t make it to World Steam Expo this year, but some good friends of mine, N & R, did.

N & R got to spend some time with these lovely folks,

Oh, those folks? They’re only Phil & Kaja Foglio, the creators of some of my favorite steampunk graphic novels and this gem of a novel as well.

My friends went to World Steam Expo, and all I got was . . . .

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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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.