Back in the day, I used to read choose your own adventure books all the time. I liked that I could read the same book and get a variety of stories based on the choices I make in the storyline. Like kids meals and discounts for minors, I was pretty confident that the choose your own adventure story format was lost to my past.
Turns out I was completely wrong, as a Steampunk Adventure-of-Your-Own-Choosing novel has just recently hit shelves. What Lies Beneath the Clocktower by Maggie Killjoy is a story filled with revolution, drugs, and romance in a remarkable fantasy world.
Here’s the description of the novel, straight from AK Press:
Descend into the depths of the undercity and embroil yourself in the political struggles of colonialist gnomes and indigenous goblins. Fly in air balloons, drink mysterious and pleasant cocktails, smoke opium with the dregs of gnomish society. Or dream and speak of liberation for all the races. Fall in love and abscond into the caverns. It’s up to you, because this is an adventure of your own choosing. From the founder of SteamPunk Magazine and editor of our very ownMythmakers & Lawbreakers comes this interactive novel of danger, drugs, and revolution.
This sounds like it’s full of complete win, and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on my own copy. You can pick up a copy of your own from AK Press or Amazon.
Steampunk’s humble beginnings are rooted in the novel. From Jules Verne all the way up to today’s modern authors, there is a wealth of Steampunk fiction just waiting to be read as a result of its current popularity, and there’s new stuff being published almost every day.
A recent article from Library Journal entitled, Steampunk: 13 Titles to Update Your Collections, advises librarians on how to grow their Steampunk collections with recent publications that attracted the author’s attention and garnered his praise. The list is definitely worth your attention if you’re trying to stay at the forefront of Steampunk’s current publications and keep your personal libraries up to date.
The list is a rather comprehensive one, including nods to The Steampunk Bible by Jeff VanderMeer, Cherie Priest’s new novel, Dreadnought, and a few newcomers to the genre. Be sure to check it out!
The Clockwork Man by William Jablonsky is the story of Ernst, a fully sentient clockwork driven automaton. The story is told by Ernst through a series of entries in his personal diaries and chronicles his life as he learns what it means to be alive, exercise free well, and about right, wrong, and the shades of grey in between.
The journal Ernst keeps is an exercise in self-reflection, and as a result, much of the story’s exposition is about Ernst’s inner thoughts and experiences. The story takes place in two parts, the first during the late 1880’s in Germany, and the second half in the United States in 2005 after his reawakening. This format effectively breaks the book up into two halves, and thus tells two related but markedly different tales as Ernst learns about the world in which he exists and the people who surround him.
I personally found that I enjoyed the first half of the book better than the second half; despite the odd romance and the contradictory notes on what Ernst is able to “feel” I found myself having to suspend disbelief in the second half of the book more so than in the first. Ernst seems to take his introduction into the modern world a bit too smoothly and seems more puzzled than alarmed or offended by his new world which contain many aspects which would be sure to alarm his Victorian era sense of decorum, and writes it off as an effort not to be judgmental. At the same time, he struggles with concepts of right and wrong, indicating that he has the ability and interest in discerning between the two.
Overall, though, The Clockwork Man is a good, quick read. It’s entertaining as long as you’re willing to suspend disbelief and simply enjoy the tale. Many of the themes in this book are interesting to explore and are likely to leave you pondering in between moments of reading, and that, to me, is part of the elements of a story well told.
Parliament and Wake is one of my favorite places for ongoing Steampunk fiction, and I love their pro-punk approach to Steampunk. They have some amazing fiction on their site, and much of it is a work in progress. The stories and the worlds created at Parliament and Wake are generally under perpetual development.
The Vangeline Cycle is a story series published by Parliament and Wake that has reached its completion and is now available in its entirety for your reading pleasure. It’s free to read, so check it out now!
After you’re finished reading The Vangeline Cycle, check out the poem that inspired the work, Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
There’s also tons of fantastic reading to be enjoyed at the larger Parliament and Wake website, so be sure to check it out.
Steampunk’s rich background and initial inspiration comes primarily through literature, so it’s of little surprise that there is a huge selection of Steampunk literature to enjoy. I’ve featured reading lists here in the past to help you, my readers, become more familiarized with Steampunk literature as a whole (like this one).
There’s so much coming out that caters to Steampunk sensibilities and interests that it’s sometimes hard to keep up.
To this end, The Airship Ambassador recently started a book store that features Steampunk reading material. There’s all sorts of books here, catering to a wide variety of reader interests. Unfortunately, the Airship Ambassador’s bookstore only ships to the US at present, but at the very least, you can use its listings to help choose your next read.
Continuing on yesterday’s history lesson, I found another excellent resource for history lovers. This one, however, focuses on Victorian London and is packed full of interesting reading material on the subject.
Victorian London.org is an archive and resource for people interested in learning more about how life was lived in the seat of the British Empire.
What is particularly interesting about this website is all the primary resources and documentations available for your perusal. There’s all kinds of topic here for your exploration, from Religion and Science to Politics and Crime. Primary resources on so many facets of Victorian life can often times be hard to get a hold of, making Victorian London.org a invaluable site for anyone interested in the historical backbone of Steampunk.
Also of interest is the website’s extensive dictionary of Victorian terminology and slang, which both writers and character actors will likely find interesting and informative.
Last weekend, I went on a glorious adventure to Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. As a true bibliophile, this was something of a pilgrimage for me and I spent a few wonderful hours exploring the towering rows of bookcases stuffed full of books just waiting to be read.
Shopping at Powell’s, however, is not an inexpensive venture, and while I’d prefer the weight and scent of a physical book, budgetary and portability issues make the standard presentation of reading material less desirous.
There’s an excellent resource for those looking for a great science fiction read for free, complied by io9 entitled The Best Places To Find Your Next Free Book Online. There’s a great collection of books that have entered into the public domain have been carefully preserved on the internet for your costless reading pleasure and enlightenment.