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Peter Higgins, author of Wolfhound Century

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Recommendations | So Much Steampunk, So Little Time

A reader asked me for some Steampunk recommendations. After looking through my shelves the simple truth is while I love the sub genre I still have a lot to read as is evident by this list.

Steampunk is also known as Clockpunk, Gaslight Fantasy, Victorian Sci-fi, and its more modern counterparts Dieselpunk and Atomicpunk. Whatever you call it the theme is advanced technology that is out of its time, but made from available resources such as Clockwork Golems and Steampowered Airships.

Books I've read and recommend:


The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia - Sedia has created one of the best characters in Steampunk with her Mattie. Exciting and emotional at the same time. Dark Wolf just did a great review here.

The Affinity Bridge by George Mann - Sherlock Homlesque Steampunk series with Zombies. See my review here along with a link to a free short story with the same characters.

Boneshaker by Cheri Priest- Very well done Steampunk, which I'd call more of a Steam Fantasy as it takes place in Seattle instead of stuffy London.  See my interview with Cherie here and my review here. Love the cover. Read the Prologue/Introduction here. Cool site too. A second book is in the works.


Soulless by Gail Carriger - New Steampunk series with romance, humor, and action which my wife and I both enjoyed.  See our review here and interviews with a few of the characters here (Alexia Tarabotti and Lord Maccon) and here (Lord Akeldama).. Changeless, Book the Second in the Parasol Protectorate series will be released in April 2010. The author keeps a very entertaining blog as well.

Whitechapel Gods by S.M. Peters - Steampunk with helluva lot of action. See interview here.

Steampunk by Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer - Good intro anthology with a very nice history of Steampunk. I have a signed copy with a nice dirigible illustration.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Graphic Novels) by Alan Moore - The earliest volumes were the most enjoyable, while the newer releases keep getting further out there.

The Victorian (Graphic Novels) by Trainor Houghton - There are 5 collected volumes that tell one giant story arc. I've only been able to get volumes 1 & 2, but so far so good.

Girl Genius (Graphic Novels) by Phil Foglio You can read the entire series so far as a web comic here, but I recommend the collected editions. It will take a lot of clicking to go through the whole series.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman - Only some of the worlds the characters spend time in have Steampunk elements, but for the most part the series is a good read. It can get a little heavy handed at times.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells - The classic that started it all. Still great to read after all of these years.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne - Yet again another classic for which all other Steampunk comes from.

Books I own but haven't gotten to yet:

Mainspring and Escapement by Jay Lake - I've really got to get to these. He is also working on a 3rd in the series as well.

Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology by Nick Gevers - Great selection of authors and an awesome cover.

Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti - Steampunk for women. My wife loved it and is looking forward to the sequel.  Good review from Fantasy Debut here.

The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives by James P. Blaylock - Omnibus from Subterranean of a bunch of short stories, novellas, and novels including Homunculus and Lord Kelvin's Machine. Blaylock is one of the people responsible for creating this sub genre. I've read a couple of the short stories but have yet to delve deeper. Soon though.

Candle Man The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glenn Dakin - Someone from the comments recommend this one as a good Young Adult Fantasy tale with Steampunk elements.

The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson - This one has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time.

The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt - Newish Steampunk series I've heard decent things about.


Books I am looking forward to or haven't gotten my hands on yet:

New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear - I've heard good things.

The Steampunk Trilogy by Paul Di Filippo - Been meaning to pick this up for years. Di Filippo is another early Steampunk originator.

Heart of Veridon by Tim Akers - What little I've heard about this Steampunk noir sounds interesting. Releases in September 2009. Akers will also be doing a Steampunk/Crime Noir book with Pyr sometime next year called The Horns of Ruin.

The Ebb Tide by James P. Blaylock - Novella of new Langdon St. Ives story from Subterranean Press.

The Women of Nell Gwynne’s by Kage Baker - Novella prequel to her Company series from Subterranean Press. Sounds intriguing.


Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear - A new Steampunk novella with Subterranean Press to be released in March 2010.

Infernal Devices: A Mad Victorian Fantasy by K.W. Jeter - I don't know much about this other than it was another early Steampunk work. Currently out of print. The subtitle is enough to make me want to track a copy down. Jeter is also credited with coining the term Steampunk.

Steampunk related books I didn't care for (Don't hate me too much for the first one.):

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers - I had one major problem with the book that if mentioned would ruin it for everyone. Suffice to say I was able to figure out the big mystery way too early.

The Difference Engine by William Gibson & Bruce Sterling - I read this a long time ago, but I don't have any fond memories.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Many of China Mieville's books are also said to have Steampunk elements, but I can't say for sure how they are used since I haven't read most of his work. I hope to update this list periodically[Last update August 7, 2009 September 28, 2009]. Below are more resources for those wanting to go further into this world. If you have any additions please comment. Also, check out Cherie Priest's great article Steampunk: What it is, why I came to like it, and why I think it’ll stick around.

Resources:
Steampunk Magazine. An online magazine that is pretty interesting. It not only includes literature but art, style, and a bit of mad science.
Very exhaustive Steampunk book list from LibraryThing is here. Although some books mentioned don't have much to do with Steampunk so beware, as many people confuse Victorian Fantasy with Steampunk all too easily.

Steampunk themed blogs:
www.thesteampunkhome.blogspot.com/
voyagesofdrfabre.blogspot.com/
brassgoggles.co.uk/blog/
steampunkworkshop.com/
steampunkscholar.blogspot.com/
curiousexpeditions.org/
community.livejournal.com/steamfashion
Clockworks is a Steampunk themed webcomic updated regularly.
Steampunk Tales is an iPhone Steampunk themed comic, but can be downloaded as a PDF and in other formats as well.

12 comments:

Alistair Spalding said...

I've read Court of the Air, it's good enough for it's type, but didn't really hook me in.

There's a new book coming out next year called Candleman by Glenn Dakin it's Steampunk for younger readers.

I've had an advance copy and rate it.

Jared said...

Good list! I also like the Steampunk magazine (even shelled out to get paper copies, which was a little silly)

I didn't like The Court of the Air very much. It was too gimmicky - he got caught up in telling a story about steampunk and forgot to actually tell a story. I also agree with your middlin' rating for Difference Engine. I think it is 'canon' as the two geniuses behind it DID come up with the steampunk idea, but as a story, it is pretty bleh.

Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age is semi-steampunk, but is probably the most accurate representation of a fantasy Victorian Society (not just silly hats and steam).

Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter is good, if a little odd.

I really like Jonathan Stroud's Bartimeus series. It is more young adult fantasy than outright steampunk, but for an alternate, magical, take on Victorian England, is very imaginative. Also, a terrific trilogy that'll make you laugh out loud.

Anonymous said...

Hey there....

Wondering if you or any of your readers have looked at the I phone short story collection. Its got a Jal Lake short in it for one.

Anyhow great list. Thanks

Scott said...

Thanks for the list some very cool stuff on there that I can't wait to check out.

JourneyPlanet said...

Very solid list. I liked Mainspring, but it had second-half problems. I loved The Anubis Gates, and while I can see where knowing so early might turn off a reader. I had major problems with The Difference Engine when I tried to read it again. I love Blaylock and I get to be the Fan GoH at a con where he's the Writer GoH!

I'm just starting up a new SteamPunk fanzine, and this is a great list. MInd if I reprint it?
Chris

Anonymous said...

You forgot about this
http://www.steampunktales.com/issue_1.html

The Mad Hatter said...

Thanks for all the feedback!

@Alistair I'll have to check Candleman out.

@JourneyPlant Sure you can use the list. I'd apprecite a credit line mentioning the site name and URL. Send me a link when it is up.

@Anon I'll have to check out the iPhone app. Looks cool. I just have to pry the iPhone from my wife's hands.

Catherine said...

Thanks for the list -- I see a lot of favorites, but some new things to check out as well.

Won't slam you for not being crazy about The Anubis Gates, which I had mixed feelings about, but this isn't the only place lately where I've seen The Difference Engine get dissed and I don't get it - it was my first steampunk waybackwhen, and sure it's not a romp like some of these stories, but I think it's brilliant. *makes sad face*

Neverwhere said...

This is an excellent list (I'm glad I'm not the only one with mixed feelings about the 'classic Difference Engine! ;-), but you forgot to credit the Vernian Process for using their album cover as the header at the top :D

Mad Hatter Review said...

@Neverwhere - I didn't know that piece whet to a Vernian Process album. If fact they're new to, so I'll have to check them out. I found the piece on the artist Myke Amend's website. He is the same artist that will be doing the cover to Cherie Priest's novella Clementine for Sub Press later this year. Clementine book is part of the Clockwork Century world along with Boneshaker.

Joshua said...

Myke did that piece for our album Behold the Machine. I don't mind you using it at all. I hope you take a moment to check out our work though? http://www.vernianprocess.com

Chriss Cornish said...

I like your list. It's one of MANY posts and lists that I used as research for compiling my own, rather long, Steampunk Recommended Reading List.

I've been a subscriber to your RSS ever since I discovered this page while doing that research.