Saturday, April 4, 2009

Review: Extraordinary Engines, edited by Nick Gevers

Extraordinary Engines, edited by Nick Gevers, copyright 2008 and published by Solaris Books.


An anthology of original steampunk stories. The line-up follows, with my rating for each story:
  1. Steampunch, by James Lovegrove : bad
  2. Static, by Marly Youmans: OK
  3. Speed, Speed the Cable, by Kage Baker: excellent
  4. Elementals, by Ian R. MacLeod: good
  5. Machine Maid, by Margo Lanagan: bad
  6. Lady Witherspoon's Solution, by James Morrow: bad
  7. Hannah, by Keith Brooke: OK
  8. Petropunk, by Adam Roberts: OK
  9. American Cheetah, by Robert Reed: bad
  10. Fixing Hanover, by Jeff VanderMeer: bad
  11. The Lollygang Save the World on Accident, by Jay Lake: good
  12. The Dream of Reason, by Jeffrey Ford: bad
My Opinion:

My advice, don't bother. There are only three stories worth paying for here, the Baker, the MacLeod, and the Lake. The rest really seemed to be worn-out tales that have been told before, but now wrapped up in retro-Victorian dressing, using themes that have been better done elsewhere. For example, Steampunch is about a mechanic who maintains a steam powered mechanical boxer, and is partially about whether or not such devices can become intelligent. Seen that, watched that on Star Trek 20 years ago. The framing story in Steampunch is actually much more interesting than the story we got. A few others stories deal with similar themes, especially American Cheetah. Other stories are completely dull, like Fixing Hanover, which is about a technician who, against his better judgement, repairs a robot that washes up on the shore near a secluded village he's sheltering in. All buildup, with no real payoff.

The Roundup:

This anthology sounds interesting, but really, save your money and go buy The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, or The Difference Engine by Sterling and Gibson. If you check out some of the reviews I link to below, you'll notice I'm more or less alone in my dislike of this book, for what its worth.


What other people have to say about Extraordinary Engines:

Duncan Lawie at Strange Horizons

Eric Brown at The Guardian on-line edition

Charles Tan at Bibliophile Stalker

Dark Wolf, at Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews

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