Category Archives: Review

The Manual of Aeronautics: The Art of the Leviathan Trilogy–by Mordicai Knode

I was at a reading for Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan when he mentioned off-hand that it would be a trilogy… with an illustrated guide to the world he was building, in the style of the Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World.

Now, there are a lot of reasons that I liked the Spiderwick guide—I’m a big fan of Tony DiTerlizzi, for instance—but the deep reason is that I’m gonzo for apocrypha. Those sorts of bits and extras that deepen worldbuilding, whether they are art books like Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Art of the Animated Series or in-world mythology like The Tales of Beedle the Bard. The icing on the cake with The Manual of Aeronautics is that Keith Thompson does the art for it, as he did for the series.

[Read “The Manual of Aeronautics: The Art of the Leviathan Trilogy” on Tor.com]

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Fullmetal Alchemist is the Best!–by Faith Erin Hicks

[Note from Ay-leen: Never forget, October 3rd….]

Faith Erin Hicks explodes the internet in this comic strip demonstrating her love for Fullmetal Alchemist

So… we recently asked cartoonist and Friends With Boys author Faith Erin Hicks if she had any strong opinions about steampunk. The answer quite literally speaks for itself!

What you’ll read below is Faith’s intense and lovely comic strip letter celebrating the existence of Fullmetal Alchemist. Once you’re done squeeing in boisterous agreement, you can check out Faith’s comic strips about The Hunger Games, Prometheus, and way, way more here. She and Prudence Shen are also currently serializing a new graphic novel about cheerleaders versus robot builders at www.nothingcanpossiblygowrong.com!

[Read the full comic review on Tor.com]

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The Speculative Art of Kehinde Wiley — Guest blog by P. Djeli Clark

I first saw the work of artist Kehinde Wiley at the Brooklyn Museum. It’s still there. You walk in, and on the left wall is an immense mural of a figure that looks somewhat like Tony Starks (Ghostface, not Downey Jr.), on horseback crossing the alps–a reworking of Jacques-Louis David’s 1800 oil-paintingNapoleon Crossing the Alps orBonaparte at the St Bernard Pass.
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The Sunshine Steam: An Account of the Inaugural Florida Steampunk Society Exhibition East, Part 2–Guest blog by S.J. Chambers

Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series about S.J.’s steampunk adventures in Florida. Read Part 1 here.

Abney Park at the Florida Steampunk Society Exhibition East, Daytona Beach Resort, Florida.

The main event was Saturday night.  Opening with Cog is Dead, an intermission performance by local artist Perego, the audience was thoroughly warmed up for headliners Abney Park. This was my first time seeing the “quintessential” Steampunk band live, and I was really impressed with how the band’s energy fed into the audience and vice versa.

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The Sunshine Steam: An Account of the Inaugural Florida Steampunk Society Exhibition East–Guest blog by S.J. Chambers

Note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series about S.J.’s steampunk adventures in Florida. Stay tuned Wednesday this week for the rest!

Dr. Imro: Impressive medicine cabinet of Dr. Imro, Provider of epic potions, tablets, and lotions. Made to be worn like a backpack for house calls.

When I first heard there was going to be a Florida Steampunk convention, I had two reactions. The first was “Yay! Home state representing.”  Second was, “What on Earth would Florida Steampunk be, exactly?”  Would it be corset jumpers and flip-flops? Solar blocking monocles and Mecha-Gator surf boards? There was only one way to get an answer, and it was to check it out myself.

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Incan Intrigues & More Make Naomi Novik’s Crucible of Gold A Captivating Read

(Note: Not steampunk, but I think there is enough overlap to warrant a cross-posting. And, if you haven’t read this series yet, I highly recommend it)

Fans of dragons and historical alternate history alike must know about Naomi Novik’s popular Temeraire series, where dragons and men battle during the Napoleonic Wars. Lively, uniquely-drawn characters and intriguing takes on history are two aspects I adore about these books, plus the international scope Novik brings to her storytelling. Though the war is raging through Europe, other non-European nations get slowly drawn into the mix, and Novik presents each society and their human-dragon relations in a nuanced manner. In China, for example, dragons and men are treated as equals. In England, dragons are considered widely as nothing more than working beasts capable of speech. African dragons, on the other hand, are respected as the reptilian reincarnation of deceased tribal elders.

At the end of the last novel, Tongues of Serpents, the former captain Will Laurence and Temeraire trek across Australia after a stolen dragon egg only to discover that the aborigines are trading with China. The revelation was certainly significant for the bigger global picture Novik is constructing, but it wasn’t her most exciting book to read. Too much wandering the outback and too little action.

I looked forward to Crucible of Gold, however, in hopes there would be more excitement. And there definitely is.

[Read on Tor.com. Sea-journeys! Incans! Dragon Tournaments! Mild spoilers ahead.]

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Empires and Explorers Re-told in Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention

Before Jules Verne and H.G. Wells came onto the literary scene with their scientific romances, another genius inventor took the stage: Frank Reade, the 19th century whiz kid who tackled the globe with his fleet of electronic-powered vehicles in a series of popular dime novels. Scholars like Jess Nevins argue that Frank Reade and other Edisonadeswere the proto-sci-fi figures that influenced the steampunk subgenre today. If you ever picked up a classic Frank Reade story, (there are some available online), you’ll also find that they were very much pulp stories of their place and time, filled with adventure, innovative machines, juvenile writing, and the whiff of imperialist attitudes and racist stereotypes.

The premise of Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention takes these entertaining, if flawed, stories and turns them on their head for a modern audience. Authors Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett have played with history before in their previous book Boilerplate, where a fictional robot was inserted into actual history. This time around, though, Frank Reade touts itself as the “real life biography” of Reade and his family of inventor-adventurers, who were so iconic that dime novel stories (the actual pulp fictional tales) were written about their lives. This cute idea was a trend in dime novels: Buffalo Bill and Thomas Edison, for instance, got the same treatment. While the Reade family never lived, however, the feat that authors Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett accomplish is not just re-mixing fact and fiction, but writing it in a way that reveals the double-edged sword of glory during the Age of Empire and beyond.

[Read the Rest on Tor.com]

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Rhyme meets Reason in Miranda, the Steampunk Murder Mystery Opera

Note: Here is my review for Tor.com about Miranda.

Photo credit: Christopher Lovenguth

In our round-up for steampunk events in January, the description for the theater production Miranda was certain intriguing to me. Murder mysteries are always fun, but a steampunk murder mystery? That’s an opera? Where all of the actors play their own instruments? Some criticize steampunk style as being too cluttered for its own good; Miranda sounded very much like an overwrought outfit, tooled too elaborately to satisfy. And yet, all of these elements drew me to the HERE theater space in NYC to watch last Friday’s show. Frankly, Miranda managed to take all of the aspects of what steampunk is – thematically, aesthetically, and even, dare I say it, musically – and combine it to create a compelling smash powerhouse of a show.

[Welcome to jury duty for the New Federation of Northern States – Read the Rest on Tor.com]

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#101 “Afro-Celtic Post-Roman, Icepunk Regency Novel”: A Review of Kate Elliot’s COLD MAGIC — Guest Blog by Maeve Alpin

You may be familiar with Kate Elliot’s previous books, the Crossroads Trilogy, The Crown of Stars septology, the Novels of the Jaran, and The Golden Key, her collaboration with Melanie Rawn and Jennifer Roberson. Cold Magic, an adventurous multicultural steampunk novel is just as marvelous.

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#99 On Jewish Folklore in Steampunk: A Review of Steampunk Torah and Merkabah Rider — Guest Blog by Rachel Landau

"Beis Midrash" by Boris Dubrov. Click for source.

“Hey, did you know giraffes are kosher?”

This made worldwide news in 2008, when a rabbi certified that giraffe milk was indeed kosher. The giraffe chews its cud and has split hooves, and its milk curdles.

Thus: kosher! How wacky of those Jews!

But this wasn’t news to me: I learned this in the third grade, along with the other rules of kashrut and shechita. We don’t eat giraffes, of course, not just because they’re endangered, but because according to Jewish law, you need to slice the arteries at a certain point, so that the blood drains most quickly and the animal dies without prolonged suffering. We know where that place is on a cow, but we’re not sure where that would be on a giraffe. So giraffes are off the menu – but they’re on the approved list.

To me, this story exemplifies much of Jewish law and modern Judaism. With a few basic axioms – just like Euclid’s – you can build a logical framework that supports any question you might have. Accept that G-d exists, and that He gave the Torah to us, and then hundreds of logical implications follow. This is the logical Judaism, the way we make sense of four thousand years of heritage and dense books and missing links. And it does make sense, one law leading to another, one interpretation and one rabbi at a time.

One of the main sources of the interpretation is the Midrash, a collection of interpretations, stories, and parables that explain the text of the Torah.

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