Twofer! Just like buses
Nothing for months, then two book reviews at the same time. Or that was the plan when I started this. However, given how long I have enthused over Airship Shape, I'm going to put the review for Pelquin's Comet up in a few days
Now, I have to admit that neither of these are entirely new; Airshipshape is almost two years old, and Pelquin's Comet came out around April last year. But I finally caught up with them in my reading list, and have been sufficiently impressed by both to set finger to keyboard.
Airship Shape first. Published by Wizard's Tower press, this is an anthology of Steampunk tales set in Bristol, or an alternate universe remarkably like it. Its always good for an anthology to have a theme, but in this case the editors (Roz Clarke and Joanne Hall) have added and extra thematic twist by splitting the book into three sections. Some believe (personally I dont) that 'proper' Steampunk should involve examination and/or damnation of slavery or the struggle of the disadvantaged classes to 'stick it to the man'. The first section, 'Less Than Men', looks into this but with wider eyes than the subject suggests. and I was delighted to see a 'Brassworth' by Christine Morgan consider a pet concept of mine; the rights of and Artificial Intelligence - And to do it with an excellent and witty tale.
The other two sections are 'Lost Souls' (creepy and fantastical), and 'Travelling Light' (bold adventurers and tales told over brandy and cigars in the smoking room of the club). The sub-divisions work really well, and I loved the mix of styles and stories it promoted.
As with all anthologies (pretty much), there is one, or possibly two, tales you are surprised made the cut, but apart from Brassworth, three more impressed me enough to deserve individual mention. First, a surprise from Andy Bigwood. I know Andy as a remarkable artist, but had no idea he could write as well. 'The Lanterns of Death Affair' was a clever little tale that fit neatly into the 'Travelling light' category.
John Hawkes-Reed's 'Miss Butler and the Handlander Process' may be misplaced in the 'Lost Souls' section, but for me is an excellent, archetypal Steampunk tale involving plucky young women, shady military organisations, and mechanical elephants with exploding knee joints. An absolutely superb romp, only narrowly beaten from first place by my third and final selection.
If 'Lost Souls' had not existed as a section, it would have needed to be created just for this story. 'The Girl With the Red Hair' by Myfanwy Morgan is a splendid tale, set comfortably in the milieu and oozing paranormal activity, with a triumphant end that makes you want to punch the air and hiss 'Yesss'.
In fact, both Morgan and Hawkes-Reed produced stories which I thought so good they poked, briefly, at my writerly confidence and left me think 'how the hell will I ever write like that?'
As I say, I know its not old, but the book is still available and I strongly recommend it.
I shall post the Pelquin's Comet review in a day or two.