So, I was all set to write my reviews for this week’s Fridays are for Fiction … and then I got home from work and realized that what I really needed to do was take my nephew to his last t-ball game of the season. Chris had picked up my sister’s boys and gotten them dinner after he got off from work, but I could tell he was beat. So I took Lucas, the 5 year old, to the ballpark, which took up pretty much the entire evening.
It was 58 fun-lovin’ degrees. IN JUNE. I’m glad I took my zip-up hoodie. (Aside: Thanks to Assassin’s Creed, every time I wear a hoodie, I feel a little like an assassin. Like I’m at an elementary school ballpark on a covert mission or something. But I digress….)
After Lucas had collected his participation medal, run the bases for the last time, and collected his “team drink” at the concession stand, I was ready to get somewhere warm. By the time the boys were picked up and I could have sat down to write, it was 9PM and all I really wanted was a nice cup of hot spiced tea, some gingersnaps, a quilt and my Kindle.
Which is, in fact, precisely what I got. I finished the first tale in Her Majesty’s Mysterious Conveyance, which is Echelon Press’ first steampunk anthology. [My version of The Snow Queen, called Bitter Cold, will be in their second steampunk anthology: Once Upon a Clockwork Tale.]
Ten Thousand Years, Nick Valentino’s entry, was not my usual cup of tea in a lot of ways. It was very much a wartime tale and focused on the details of an epic airship battle. I’m not so much with the shooting and the lopping off of body parts with swords, and there was a lot of that. BUT–I loved the setting in 19th century Japan. I lived just outside Tokyo for three years, and I love Japanese culture.
Also, there is a plot twist that I totally didn’t see coming, and I’m that person who always sees the plot twist coming a mile off, so well done on Nick for pulling off a truly unexpected ending. If you enjoy fast-paced adventure tales with a pulp-y feel, you’ll probably enjoy Ten Thousand Years. If not, the beautiful thing about this anthology is that there are three more stories chock-full of steampunk goodness.
I’ll review those other three tales as I finish them. You all waited an extra day for these reviews. I figured I owed you a bonus review-let.
Also read in the last week:
Bright’s Passage by Josh Ritter. I already knew Josh Ritter as a songwriter. His mummy song, The Curse, is a particular favorite of mine. I have a thing for mummies. Bright’s Passage is a short, dense read. As in his songwriting, Ritter leaves a lot unspoken and up to the reader’s imagination. In this case, that means that Bright’s Passage is a little hard to categorize. Whether it’s a supernatural horror story, or a historical novel about the psychological horrors of war is pretty much up to your own interpretation. On that note, I really enjoyed the interview at the end between Ritter and Neil Gaiman.
Either way, there’s a Southern Gothic tone to the book that makes it creepy even when it’s being absurdly funny. Set in Appalachia around the time of the first World War, it’s the story of a young veteran Henry Bright. Raised in a ramshackle cabin and always in the shadow of potential violence from his uncle “The Colonel,” he goes off to war after his mother’s death. There he discovers, not surprisingly, that war is not a huge improvement. And the angel that follows him back from a destroyed French church and decides to take up residence in his horse is, frankly, not helping matters.
The story structure reminded me a bit of LOST; flashbacks to recurring themes and similar events in Bright’s tragic history run throughout the book. The “main” story is about Bright’s journey with his newborn son after his wife dies in childbirth. As I said earlier, there’s a lot of ambiguity in the story, and like I said with Ten Thousand Years, there’s a lot of people getting shot and blown up for my taste. But also like TTY, I really enjoyed the setting, which was rendered with a nice level of detail. It was both an emotionally draining and emotionally satisfying read.
I also read the first of Gail Carriger’s “Parasol Protectorate” series this week, Soulless. Like Bright’s Passage, it’s a hard book to define from a genre standpoint. In the case of Soulless, that’s because Carriger blends two or three different genres in even layers like a trifle: Jane Austen, tongue-in-cheek comedy, steampunky Victorian mystery, and urban fantasy/paranormal romance.
The essential conceit is that werewolves, vampires and ghosts are all integrated into Victorian British society. The prevailing theory is that these supernatural beings are the result of an excess of soul. On the flip side, the main character Alexia Tarribotti is a preternatural, a human without any soul at all. Whenever she touches a supernatural being, she negates their abilities, turning them human. (Note: I’m not sure how that works with ghosts, since it didn’t come up in Soulless. Maybe it comes up in the later books in the series.)
I enjoyed the book quite a bit. The humor was really well done. While it’s hard defining exactly what genre The Parasol Protectorate falls under, it clearly is genre fiction. The characters were people I’d like to spend more time with, in a setting I’d like to spend more time in, and those are two hallmarks of addictive genre fiction. I’ll return to the series when I can.
What are you all reading? If you want to share, drop me a comment. 🙂