Steampunk literature seems to grow by the day as new and genre defining works are published. Even as a voracious reader, I find it hard to keep up with all the recent works by the many talented Steampunk authors.
A recent article entitled Top 25 Novels for Steampunk Aficionados helps to cut down Steampunk reading into a manageable syllabus for the study of Steampunk literature. The list goes in chronological order, which helps to see how Steampunk has evolved over time. It starts with a proto-Steampunk staple, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and explores over 150 years in Steam driven fiction.
The list continues, mentioning many of Steampunk’s most defining novels. For both the newcomer and the veteran of Steampunk, this well compiled list helps to choose that next steamy read.
Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is arguably his best known work. It stands as a remarkable example of Victorian science fiction and proto-Steampunk fiction.
Verne wrote more than just 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, however, and many of his novels have such radical and fantastic twists that they deserve more attention within Steampunk circles.
Robur the Conqueror, written by Jules Verne in 1886, is a lot like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea featuring an enigmatic captain who takes prisoners aboard his highly advanced craft and shows them the wonders of his technology. Instead of being set in the seas, however, Robur the Conqueror is set in the skies and features heavier-than-air aircraft that would turn from science fiction to science fact in the following century.
The novel has moved into the public domain, which means you can read it for free from a number of sources. You can find the various e-reader formats and an audiobook version from the Dieselpunks forum here.
Robur the Conqueror was combined with another of Verne’s novels, Master of the World, in a 1961 adaptation featuring Vincent Price as Captain Robur. It used to be available on Hulu back in May when I covered it then (so please go there if you want a more in depth breakdown of the film), but it appears as though the film is no longer in the Hulu archives. Here’s a trailer, at least.
A remake of this tale with a bit larger budget might be really interesting and probably in high order.
The name George Griffith isn’t necessarily the first name that comes to mind in listing proto-Steampunk writers, but his influence is undeniable. Though he did not enjoy the same length of fame during his literary career, Griffith came to be seen as one of the most popular science fiction writers of the nineteenth century.
His popularity was especially concentrated in England where he revolutionary and socialist views found an eager audience. For Steampunks interested in a politically charged read from a proto-Steampunk who bridges the gap between the adventures of Verne and the terrible futures of come of Wells, Griffith’s works are a must read.
Our friends over at dieselpunks.org have put together two e-books by Griffith for your enjoyment, and best of all, they are free to download and come in a variety of formats to accommodate the various e-readers. The books are The World Peril of 1910, and The Angel of the Revolution for which Griffith is best known.
Thanks to Tome and the Dieselpunks community! I look forward to reading these soon!
In June, I announced the release of a new book by Quirk Classics, the Steampunked retelling of Anna Karenina, Android Karenina. Being able to appreciate the original work by Leo Tolstoy, I had big hopes that Android Karenina would be nothing short of epic.
I finally finished this tome last week and have had some time to think about everything that I read within. I have mixed feelings about Android Karenina.
First of all, the title seems to suggest that Anna’s Class III, Android Karenina, is going to have a large role to play in the novel. I spent most of the novel waiting for something big enough to happen that would warrant the book being named after Android Karenina rather than Anna. Something does happen, in the last 30 pages or so which give an explanation, but not one that’s worth 500 pages to get to.
This is, of course, partially the consequence of the source material. Victorian novels in general tend to be drawn out affairs with crucial action happening in between pages of description and droning. Android Karenina is a bit more fast paced than it’s original source, but for someone who was reading the book in very short segments over a period of a month, I found it hard to be absorbed by the book.
What was most frustrating about the book was its strange presentation of the human and robot relationship. Humans are portrayed in so many different lights, from noble and honest to inept and evil, that the book’s ongoing message about humanity and its needs/desires for robots was not a very coherent idea. Sure there’s an attempt to wrap it up at the end, but it wasn’t an ending I felt particularly happy with. And really, the whole robot thing was so big in this retelling that I wish it had gone out on a limb and tried to make more of a political statement. It was almost there so many times, but ultimately didn’t leave me with a strong opinion about the humanity of the characters or the political nature of robotics.
I’d give it a 3 out of 5. While the concept of rewriting Anna Karenina in a Steampunk universe is an interesting and occasionally entertaining one, I can’t say that I’ll be feeling the need to re-read this book any time soon. I’d rather just wade through the original and enjoy the more in-depth exploration of a woman who dared to love in a time when society forbade such luxuries to the fairer sex.
H.G. Wells, along with Jules Verne, is one of the most influential writers not only for modern Steampunk, but also for science fiction in general. Where would we be without such classics as The Time Machine or The Invisible Man?
Through the course of the average American’s high school education, a student will be lucky to read one of Wells’ groundbreaking stories. I know that my familiarity with these stories came only through my own independent reading, despite that I enjoyed placement in the highest level English language and literature classes. Wells and Verne were, quite simply, not a priority to my instructors.
To remedy this situation, I am recommending a leather bound presentation of Well’s seven novels for your reading pleasure. This tome contains The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The Island of Doctor Moreau, War of the Worlds, First Men In the Moon, Food of the Gods and In the Days of the Comet.
Happy reading, everyone! These stories will be sure to provide a wonderful escape on a summer afternoon.
Earlier this week, I presented to you LibriVox, an online compendium of audio-books in the public domain in the hopes to increase your exposure to the literature that laid the foundations for today’s Steampunk writers. Among the trailblazing masters of science fiction is Jules Verne, one of my favorites among the proto-Steampunk authors.
Jules Verne often takes the opposite view of technology than H.G. Wells. Where Wells condemns the continued progression of technology as the prelude to humanity’s destruction, Verne sees technology as the key to unlocking the human spirit and all its potential.
Barnes and Noble is offering a magnificent collection of Verne’s three best known novels: Around the World in Eighty Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in hardcover.
This magnificent tome is also illustrated with the artwork of Nate Pride.
You can get all of this for just $11.68. Quite a bargain if you are looking to add a bit of Verne to your personal library. As far as modern editions of these novels go, you can’t get much better than this.