The Spokane County Library District (SCLD) provides its patrons with a wide range of fiction that should appeal to all readers. Science fiction lovers may appreciate that they carry many steampunk novels by authors such as Gail Carriger, Mark Hodder, Kate Locke, George Mann, Devon Monk and Cherie Priest.
Steampunk novels are usually, but not always, set in an alternate version of 19th century England where technology developed in different ways and people have access to things such as airships and steam-powered cars, or possibly even primitive computers.
According to Wikipedia, “Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.
“Steampunk perhaps most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era’s perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art. Such technology may include fictional machines like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne…”
Some steampunk novels also feature supernatural elements. Vampires, werewolves and zombie-like creatures often exist in their alternate settings. Sometimes magic works as well. Part of the fun of the steampunk genre is that the authors often play with genre rules by blurring the lines between more traditional science fiction and fantasy.
In Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, for example, many of the recurring characters are either werewolves or friendly vampires. The series protagonist Alexia Tarabotti goes on secret missions for the British government and solves mysteries, but much of the fun comes from Alexia confronting supernatural threats.
To learn more about these terrific books provided by SCLD, please view the list.
‘The Affinity Bridge’ by George Mann
“The Affinity Bridge” by George Mann is the first book in a fun steampunk mystery series set in an alternate London that should appeal to fans of Sherlock Holmes. Queen Victoria has lived longer than she did in real life, thanks to some special life support devices created by a mad scientist. In London, people use clockwork robots for menial tasks and sometimes they have to fight zombies that terrorize people in the lower-class neighborhoods. Sir Maurice Newbury is a special agent for the crown who deals with unusual threats in a manner similar to a certain famous consulting detective. Newbury and his new assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes investigate several mysteries including an airship crash, a missing robot and a glowing policeman who has apparently become a serial killer.
‘Boneshaker’ by Cherie Priest
“Boneshaker” by Cherie Priest is the first book in her Clockwork Century series. “Boneshaker” is set in Seattle in the 1880s. Part of the city is walled off because a strange poison gas called the Blight turned everyone in that area into zombie-like creatures. A young man named Zeke Wilkes goes into the walled-off area to try to clear the name of his father, who was blamed for creating the zombies after an accident involving his experimental gold mining machine. His mother Briar follows him in an airship hoping to rescue him. They soon learn that a mad scientist is up to no good in the inner city.
‘Dead Iron’ by Devon Monk
“Dead Iron” by Devon Monk is a steampunk western set in a strange version of the Oregon Territory where magic works and robots help build the railroads. Bounty hunter Cedar Hunt’s search for a missing child leads him into an ongoing conflict to keep a dastardly villain named Shard Lefel from obtaining a powerful magical device called the Holder.
‘Ghosts of Manhattan’ by George Mann
“Ghosts of Manhattan” by George Mann combines steampunk genre elements with pulp fiction conventions to tell the story of a superhero operating in an alternate 1926 New York.
The Ghost is a vigilante sort of like The Shadow who uses special weapons and gadgets to fight crime.
According to the synopsis on Amazon, “A series of targeted murders are occurring all over the city, the victims found with ancient Roman coins placed on their eyelids after death. The trail appears to lead to a group of Italian-American gangsters and their boss, who the mobsters have dubbed ‘The Roman’.
“However, as The Ghost soon discovers, there is more to The Roman than at first appears, and more bizarre happenings that he soon links to the man, including moss-golems posing as mobsters and a plot to bring an ancient pagan god into the physical world in a cavern beneath the city.”
‘God Save the Queen’ by Kate Locke
“God Save the Queen” by Kate Locke is the first book in a fun series about vampires and werewolves living in an alternate twenty-first century where Queen Victoria (who is a vampire) still rules England.
Possibly because the ruling class is made up of supernatural creatures who live for hundreds of years, British culture and technology have developed in different ways than they did in the real world. Cell phones have dials, computers are called logic engines and everyone goes around in steampunk-approved clothes loosely based on what people wore in the Victorian era.
‘Soulless’ by Gail Carriger
“Soulless” by Gail Carriger is the first book in her Parasol Protectorate series. The books are both rousing adventure stories set in an alternate 19th century where vampires and werewolves are part of British society and comedies that should appeal to fans of P.G. Wodehouse or Oscar Wilde.
Alexia Tarabotti is an aging spinster in Victorian London. Due to her lack of a soul, her touch causes vampires and werewolves to change back to ordinary humans. This comes in useful more often than one might expect over the course of the series.
In the first book, after she accidentally kills a vampire who tries to molest her, Alexia must work with a Scottish werewolf named Lord Conall Macon to solve a mystery. She also has to do her best to tolerate her horrible mother and boy-crazy sisters.
The book is both a terrific urban fantasy story and a really funny send-up of romance novels set in Victorian England.
‘The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack’ by Mark Hodder
“The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack” by Mark Hodder is the first book in his Burton and Swinburne series. Explorer and author Sir Richard Francis Burton and the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne solve crimes and have adventures in an alternate 19th century England where people drive steam-powered cars and helicopters were invented before they were in real life.
Among other problems that Burton and Swinburne face, they discover that several young women have been accosted by an urban legend called Spring-heeled Jack. Eventually, it becomes clear that the mysterious figure is a time traveler trying to keep their strange version of 1861 from happening.
There are a lot of fun things about the series. One of them is that many of the characters are based on historical people who were alive at the time. Each book features a glossary explaining the real history that inspired the story.