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Towers of Books Come Tumbling Down!

I love all kinds of books! For all my friends, I am known on GR as Alicja. I don't stick with a genre, that's boring. Instead you'll get reviews from the most random assortment of fiction and non-fiction works. It's probably due to my interests being as eclectic as my book tastes.


I'm a girlfriend-loving bisexual, science fiction geek, PC gamer, historical fiction devourer, hiker, atheist, history buff, opera lover, vegetarian, kayaker, metal and hard rock concert goer, science nerd, politics debater, world traveler, M/M romance fan, and I have the ability to transform from an adult-like hard-working professional into a screaming fangirl in five seconds flat.

The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature by Jeff VanderMeer

The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature - Bruce Sterling, Jeff VanderMeer, Jake von Slatt, Libby Bulloff, Evelyn Kriete, S.J. Chambers, G.D. Falksen, Desirina Boskovich, J. Daniel Sawyer, Rick Klaw, Jess Nevins, Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: 4/5

Summary: Overview of the Steampunk culture with a look at its history and current (pre-2011) state.

Review: Grab a cup of tea while enjoying The Steampunk Bible, a beautifully illustrated guide to the Steampunk culture. The art was chosen wonderfully (except for one image that is located on a whole page and blurry)! My favorite image is the beautiful artistic panoramic picture of Tom Every’s Forvertron Park on pages 94-95. It is just breathtaking; I must have stared at it for an hour trying to take in every detail.

Also, amongst these pages are a few jewels that just blew me away. Pages 60-61 contain an essay by Catherynne M. Valente entitled “Blowing Off Steam.” She calls out to Steampunks everywhere to not get tied up in the coolness of what we perceive to be Victorian (such as gluing gears onto everything) but to make sure that we focus on the steam and punk; the grittiness, nastiness, death, and terror accompanied with steam technology and the rebellion inherent in the punk (that we should be lucky to live up to the punk in the name). It is a brilliant essay against the watered down version of Steampunk that seems to have become mainstream (like being able to buy it in Hot Topic), and a call to not be afraid of the sludge.

I have found a few quotes from this book that phrase my love of Steampunk better than I could ever describe it. Zachary Rukstela of Kinetic Steam Works said of the visual aesthetic and functionality of Steampunk, “It’s hot and wet – it’s incredibly sexy, with pistons moving, dipping moaning. Incredibly organic.” Diana M. Pho (aka Ay-lee the Peacemaker) noted that Steampunk (in regards to multiculturalism within the culture) is a “chance to re-write the typical white, male-oriented, European-dominated past to reflect voices that had been silenced, ignored, or oppressed.” This view portrays the flexibility inherent with Steampunk (through the idea of alternate histories) to explore “what ifs” of the past, focusing on voices rarely heard in traditional history books (as well as allowing room for criticisms of modern culture within its framework).

I had the most problems with the second chapter; it felt like an advertisement for the newest Steampunk novels out there, including some novels that I didn’t find that good upon reading (I may be pickier than the average reader though). For a book about a cultural movement that promoted DYI and anti-mainstream ideologies that seemed a bit, uh, ironic (although it made me pick up the Difference Engine by Gibson and Sterling which so far I adore completely). However, the literary history of all the proto-Steampunk works starting with Verne and Wells was fascinating, leaving me wishing for more history and less descriptions of the contemporary works (although I do see a point in why the author included them since he wishes to also present the contemporary state of the culture).

It may not be the definitive guide (but it wouldn’t be ‘punk’ if there could be a definitive guide, especially with the DIY emphasis of the culture) and suffers being outdated within a few years as the culture grows rapidly, but it is a nice cross-section and introduction into the world of Steampunk for beginners. It serves as an entry into something beautiful, unique, gritty, revolutionary, and as far away from the antiseptic technology of today as possible.