Friday, January 28, 2011

Steam is so hot right now

The term steampunk has been around for almost 30 years, but very recently the trend has exploded in YA and middle grade novels. Steampunk is a genre that embodies many tropes, which may account for its popularity. A book can be steampunk if it's pseudo-Victorian and there is air-travel (preferably by dirigible), as in a classic progenitor of the genre, Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, or a book can be steampunk if it depicts a dystopian future in which society uses strange machines (with lots of cogs and rivets!), as in du Prau's City of Ember. The term itself is a subgenre of alternative-history science fiction in which a thought experiment is played out: what if the Victorian era had been run on steam? The fun anachronistic gadgetry that spans the genre makes for some fantastical story possibilities. Of all the strands of steampunk there are, here are some staff favorites!

Really Victorian/Alt-HistoryAdd Image
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
George staffer Michelle picked this when it was hot off the presses: During an alternative WWI, fugitive Prince Alek, of the mechanical-driven Clankers, meets Darwinist Deryn, making a temporary alliance in the Alps. With military secrets, disguises, and bio-engineered whale zeppelins, this is a new exciting direction for Westerfeld. Leviathan is followed by a second book entitled Behemoth.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
The now-canonical trilogy has a lot of gadgetry, dirigibles and hot air-balloons but even MORE food-for-thought. I wrote a staff pick for the first volume, The Golden Compass, this last year after finally finishing the whole series: In Lyra’s world, everyone has a daemon, which is like your soul in animal form. Lyra discovers a conspiracy to take them away from kids, and she has to stop it. This action-packed story with a strong heroine and a lot of philosophical themes will be one you reread over and over again!

Really Gadget-y

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Another Michelle staff pick: In order to make the world “safe,” Incarceron, a vast thinking prison, was created to contain the criminal or mentally ill. Finn, an epileptic prisoner, finds a crystal key to communicate with a girl Outside – but can he escape before Incarceron thinks, and acts, for itself? This British import blends action, philosophy, & mystery.

The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby
Three unique characters that you will enjoy getting to know intersect and soon join together like cogs in a machine to harness their magical powers and save the day.

Really Fantastic-y

Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce
George staffer Shara H. picked this one: Flora, a prisoner of her own home, is required to keep the rundown Crackpot Hall (with its 11,000 rooms) tidy until she is forced to join the military after her 14th birthday. Seeking a way out of her many responsibilities, Flora attempts to restore a banished butler, free a pirate on death row, and bring her family back together in the process, but ultimately finds more trouble than relief.

Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne-Jones
Another pick from Michelle: Sophie is a quiet, hardworking girl in her family’s hat shop – until the jealous Witch of the Waste turns her into an old woman. With creaky knees, white hair, and the feisty friendship of a fire demon, Sophie develops some spunk, which she’ll need if she wants the mysterious wizard Howl to break her curse. After this, watch Miyazaki’s film!

1 comment:

megwrites said...

Howl's Moving Castle is one of my very favorite books!
Thanks for all the recommendations...I'm looking forward to reading them.