Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Steampunk

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

If you’re not really familiar with the term ‘steampunk’, here is a quick definition:

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. — from Wikipedia

Steampunk is something I’ve only recently started getting into. I think I first delved into it when I started blogging three years ago, so whilst this may not seem recent, it is fairly recent compared to the amount of time that I have been reading science fiction. Yet so far, every single steampunk book I’ve read has surprised me and enraptured me.

It really draws me in because it is a mixture of two of my favourite things: history and science fiction. Often, steampunk titles are set in the past and involve futuristic elements, or set in the future with elements of the past. Another fantastic feature of steampunk is when it is used to create an alternate history, like in Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series.

Here are some fantastic steampunk reads that I have enjoyed:
Leviathan Incarnation by Emma Cornwall The Six Gun Tarot

This selection alone demonstrates the variety that comes with steampunk. We have an alternate history of the First World War, a Victorian vampire novel that is a semi-retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and a steampunk Western.

And others that I can’t wait to try out:
Karen Memory The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack The Aeronaut's Windlass

One of my absolute favourite steampunk themed video games is Dishonored. Here’s a short summary from Wikipedia:

Set in the fictional, plague-ridden industrial city of Dunwall, Dishonored follows the story of Corvo Attano, bodyguard to the Empress of the Isles. He is framed for her murder and forced to become an assassin, seeking revenge on those who conspired against him. Corvo is aided in his quest by the Loyalists—a resistance group fighting to reclaim Dunwall, and the Outsider—a powerful being who imbues Corvo with magical abilities. — from Wikipedia

It is a truly fantastic game, and gives the player the option to undertake missions in a variety of different ways, including ultra-violent options and much more peaceful ones. Each choice the player makes has an effect on the outcome of the game.

dishonored

However, a game like Dishonored does remind me that steampunk is such a versatile element of science fiction. It is hard to believe that something like Dishonored and a title such as Star Wars could be considered part of the same ‘family’ – which shows just how varied science fiction is a genre. It contains so many different elements and facets that there must be something for everyone. Steampunk could be a fantastic way to introduce someone to science fiction, particularly fans of fantasy fiction.

What are your thoughts on steampunk? Do you love it or hate it?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #9: True Blood

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The TV series this week is: True Blood.

true blood dvd

Telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse encounters a strange new supernatural world when she meets the mysterious Bill, a southern Louisiana gentleman and vampire.

I am unashamedly a big fan of this wonderfully cheesy series. I’ve read all the books (written by Charlaine Harris), and finally caught up with the TV show last year. Although the series is VERY different to the books – the only season that follows the book plotline is season one and partly two – they’re both gory, silly and very, very fun. So apart from the obvious: read the books by Charlaine Harris – here’s some other books you might enjoy if you’re a fan of True Blood.

Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin

Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin

One of the masters of fantasy wrote a vampire novel in his early days, and it is seriously underrated. Set in nineteenth century Louisiana, it follows a riverboat captain called Abner Marsh who is approached by a strange businessman called Joshua York, and offered a very good deal. However, York is not quite as he seems, and Marsh may have gotten himself into something deadly… It has all the traditions of a vampire story, with a more unusual setting. Yes, it’s Louisiana and Mississippi, like much of True Blood (and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles), but it’s on a steamboat! Vampires! On a steamboat! Plus you can’t go wrong with GRRM’s writing (or maybe I’m a bit of a fangirl…).

Incarnation by Emma Cornwall

Incarnation by Emma Cornwall

I reviewed this one a while ago, and it really impressed me. A retelling of Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula, from the point of view of one of Dracula’s transformed victims, Incarnation is a wonderfully written book. The tone really captures the writing style of the period in which it is set, and the author’s descriptions of the Yorkshire moors and dark London streets are very eerie. I was so happy that I requested it from Edelweiss, as it was really nothing like I was expecting. My review was also chosen to be featured on Edelweiss, which was exciting.

The Passage by Justin Cronin

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Less of a traditional vampire novel than the other two, but still a brilliant tale. It’s a huge book, with a wide cast of characters. In The Passage, vampires are created through a virus, similar to that of I Am Legend. The story follows a group of survivors, as well as a young girl who is central to the whole thing – but they’re not quite sure how. The sequel, The Twelve came out last year and I still need to get round to that one.

Are you a fan of True Blood? Do you have any recommendations to add?

Top Lists

Horror October: My Top Ten Horror Books

For this week’s Horror October post, I’m sharing my top ten horror books with my lovely readers! Have you read any of these?
 


1. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill – more eerie and creepy than outright horrifying, this is not something you want to read at night. I haven’t yet watched the film – it doesn’t look like it’s completely captured the spirit of the book to me. Susan Hill is a master of suspense.

2. The Shining by Stephen King – obviously. A tale of a man’s spiral into madness… or is it? This book is shocking, horrifying and downright scary, making it a perfect Halloween read. The film makes some big changes, so definitely give it a read even if you think you don’t need to after seeing the film!


3. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris – or rather, the whole series for this one. Not particularly plain ol’ horror, it’s about vampires, werewolves, fairies and other mystical creatures, but has a fair amount of horrific moments and gory shocks. I discussed the series a couple of months ago.


4. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – this book isn’t just scary because of the vampires/zombies. It’s the effect that isolation has on Neville, and how his human instincts react to that isolation. (my review)


5. Incarnation by Emma Cornwall – a semi-retelling of Dracula told from the point of view of one of his victims, this is a wonderfully written book and one of my hidden gems from last year. (my review)


6. Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin – GRRM, a master of epic fantasy, has also written a pretty awesome vampire novel, set on the Mississippi. Typical of the author, it’s a very dark book.



 
 
7. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova – this one seems to have such mixed reviews and ratings on Goodreads, but I personally loved it. It follows the story of a young woman chasing her family’s past and the evil that is connected.
 
8. The Passage by Justin Cronin – another vampire novel, but so, so well done, especially because, like with I Am Legend, the vampirism is a disease and the results are believable. Books like this are always much scarier when they could actually happen to you. I’m still hoping to read the sequel, The Twelve, which came out last year.
 
9. Carrie by Stephen King – another one from the master of horror, Carrie follows the story of a young high school girl who is relentlessly teased at school. One day it just gets too much…
 
10. Ring by Koji Suzuki – I never want to see the film of this one – the book was creepy enough. I’m sure you’re familiar with the story, the film was really big when it came out  seven or eight years ago (I think). If you watch a certain video tape, you get a phone call – and are killed seven days later by a mysterious force. Shame that the tape has become infamous with the local teenagers, who are casually passing it around…
 

This post is part of Horror October, hosted by Leanne at Literary Excursion.

Misc.

Horror October: Introduction Post

Horror October

Horror October is here! An event organised by Leanne at Literary Excursion, you can read more about the event on her blog, or read my announcement post.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m 22, from the UK and currently working as a medical receptionist. I’m working to save for my Masters degree, so I can go on and become a museum curator – however I really enjoy my current job too, which is a bonus! I studied ancient history and archaeology for my undergraduate degree, and graduated last summer.

 
Apart from reading I also love discovering all sorts of things about ancient cultures and archaeology, listening to music 24/7 (you can sample my tastes here), playing video games/talking out loud to video game characters/obsessing over Alistair with Paola, wasting far too much time on the internet and catching up with a million and one TV shows I still need to finish (here’s looking at you, Supernatural). I also volunteer at a local museum, where I record finds (I love finds!) on the database, and create handouts for the exhibits.

2. Why did you decide to join Horror October?

Leanne is part of Sci-Fi Month, which is how I got to know her, and I saw a few weeks ago that she was organising a similar event. I organised Sci-Fi Month to spread the love of the genre, but also to meet fellow like-minded bloggers, so I’d love to be able to do the same with this event. I was originally only going to maybe do one post, but then Leanne mentioned that she was also including supernatural and paranormal fiction, as well as traditional horror, meaning I had more to speak about.

3. What horror books have you read and loved?

The Shining by Stephen King, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (review) come to mind when I think of more traditional horror. In terms of supernatural/paranormal fiction, I loved Incarnation by Emma Cornwall (review), Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin and the Sookie Stackhouse novels (discussion about the series). I also absolutely loved the Goosebumps series as a child!

4. What are your plans for Horror October?
  • 1st October: introduction post
  • 8th October: giveaway
  • 15th October: a guide to True Blood/The Sookie Stackhouse Novels
  • 22nd October: my top ten horror books
  • 29th October: post exploring the different representations of vampires in media

Eric will be back in two weeks!
Misc.

A to Z Bookish Survey

 
When I saw this great bookish survey created by Jamie at Perpetual Page Turner, I knew I had to join in. Credit also goes to Jamie for the image above.
 
Author you’ve read the most books from:
Natsuki Takaya, due to reading all of the Fruits Basket manga – after that it’s Jacqueline Wilson. I loved her when I was younger. But if we’re talking about authors I still read, then it’s Terry Pratchett.
 
Best sequel ever:
I’m going to cheat and say sequels, with the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series. I really can’t decide which of the books is my favourite, they’re all amazing and build perfectly upon each other.
 
Currently reading:
The Returned by Jason Mott (for a blog tour) and The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett. The latter is taking me far too long to read since I don’t tend to like reading on the Kindle too much. But I better get used to it…

Drink of choice while reading:
Tea. Duh. Though I have been known to indulge in the occasional Southern Comfort and lemonade. Often whilst reading The Southern Vampire Mysteries.
 
E-reader or physical book:
I guess I already answered this one. Definitely a physical book, but I really need to get used to using an e-reader. I’m planning on going to university abroad for my Masters, and I can’t really take my books with me…
 
Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school:
Errmmm. Maybe not in high school/secondary school… but I’d quite like me a bit of Eric Northman, thank you please.
 
 
Glad you gave this book a chance:
Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar. Quite unexpected!
 
Hidden gem book:
Incarnation by Emma Cornwall. I’m afraid that this might get lumped in with all the other YA vampire stuff, when in actual fact it’s a wonderfully written semi-retelling of Dracula, from the point of view of one of his victims. 
 
Important moment in your reading life:
The same as Jamie, and probably many other bloggers: discovering Goodreads. It made it so much easier to keep track of what I was reading/had read, find new books, work out what to read next, and most importantly of all: find fellow-minded book lovers!
 
Just finished:
Dead to the World (Southern Vampire Mysteries #4) by Charlaine Harris. For the third time. I recently discussed the series after reading the twelfth and penultimate book, bought the entire five seasons on DVD and started re-reading the series again. As if I don’t have enough to read already without re-reading!
 
Kinds of books you won’t read:
Erotica, pure romance (it’s okay mixed with another genre, and as a minor part of the book, but otherwise I just find it pretty dull), paranormal romance (or rather, I’m more selective), overly graphic books (squeamish), any sort of fiction that pushes religious views on the reader. I’m also not a massive fan of poetry (unless it’s Ovid. Ovid is awesome).
 
Longest book you’ve read:
Hmm… if you count The Lord of the Rings as one volume, then that maybe? One book I’m currently reading – but currently have on hold – is Shogun by James Clavell, which clocks in at around 1200 pages. But most recently, I think it was probably IQ84 Books 1 & 2 by Haruki Murakami, which was amazing and very, very odd – true to his style. Oh, and I can’t be forgetting A Song of Ice and Fire – each book is at least 500 pages long. I’ve read plenty of thick, door-stop books: it comes with being a fan of the fantasy and science fiction genres.
 
Major book hangover because of:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I received a free copy a while ago, but was preparing myself for it because of all the reviews I’d read, people saying they bawled and bawled. Well I finally got round to reading it a few months ago, and I started off like this:
 
 
“Oh I’m so happy to be reading this book, I’ve heard such great things about it from everyone; it’s easy to read and actually quite funny – I was not expecting that. And yeah, it’s quite sad but there’s a lot of humour injected into it, why were people bawling their eyes out?”
 
Then, about three quarters through, just one tiny little moment did this to me:
 
 
“Oh. That’s why.”
 
And from there on out, I was sobbing and bawling until the end of the book, and after. Thanks, John Green. Thanks. (but seriously though, it was amazing)
 
Number of book cases you own:
I myself own two, plus a big shelf for archaeology/ancient history related books, and now the books are escaping onto the mantelpiece… but as for my family – well… look here.
 
One book you have read multiple times:
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. I’ve read it at least once every year since I was eleven (apart from last year actually…). So around ten times, I think.
 
Preferred place to read:
 
Quote that inspires you:

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”

This is something that Jojen Reed says in A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin. 

Reading regret:

Not reading much at all during the first two years of university. I felt kind of guilty for reading non-archaeology related books. But I had so much free time! Think of all the books I could have crossed off my ‘to read’ list

Series you’ve started and need to finish (all books are published):

The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons and The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. I just need to read the last book for each of them!

Three of your all-time favourite books:

Ah, this is a hard one! Okay… I’ll pick each from different genres. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (fantasy), Hyperion by Dan Simmons (sci-fi) and The Secret History by Donna Tartt (thriller/mystery). There’s so many more I wish I could add to that.

Unapologetic fangirl for:

J.R.R Tolkien and anything to do with Middle-earth. My first foray into website creation was at the age of 13, and I owned several Lord of the Rings related fansites from that age until I was about 17 or 18. I would quite happily live in the Shire.

Very excited for this release more than others:

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding, because of the wonderful feelings the first two books give me. I hope it lives up to the hype!

Worst bookish habit:

Reading several books at once because I want to hurry up and review them, and thinking that reading several at once will help that. But it doesn’t. Because I flit between them constantly and often pick up another book.

X marks the spot: go to the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

Your latest book purchase:

Wards of Faerie (Dark Legacy of Shannara #1) by Terry Brooks.

ZZZ-snatcher: book that kept you up WAY too late:

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicles #1) by Patrick Rothfuss. I read it for my book group, Dragons & Jetpacks, and we pretty much all loved it. I kept thinking ‘one more chapter…’ but it has really short chapters, so I felt cheated and would read one more… then rinse, and repeat.

Review

Review: Incarnation by Emma Cornwall

Incarnation by Emma Cornwall

5 out of 5 stars

Wow. When I requested this book from Edelweiss, I thought it looked good – pretty cover, interesting sounding plot – but I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I did, particularly as it was my first steampunk novel. As it is labelled as a Young Adult book, I was expecting the writing style to be fairly basic, as it tends to be in YA fiction. Cornwall, however, goes all out and writes the novel as if she herself was writing in nineteenth century England.

 

Where YA novels tend to base most of their description around characters (particularly of the male persuasion), this book contains many beautiful descriptions of the environment: the dark, eerie Yorkshire moors; the dingy alleyways of Victorian London. I don’t know if it helped that I’ve visited Whitby and the Yorkshire moors myself, so I can imagine them more vividly, but I think even without visiting them Cornwall’s descriptions do them justice. The writing flowed so well, and I think it is the use of words and diction contemporary with the setting of the story that really lifts it above all those other paranormal YA novels out there.

 

Rather than being a straight retelling of the Dracula story by Bram Stoker, Cornwall instead chooses to directly involve Stoker himself, which works really well. I find that when historical or famous figures are included in stories, as long as they are not too out of character, it makes the story more relatable, by presenting the reader with characters they are already familiar with. For example, we also get to meet William Gladstone, former Prime Minister, and Queen Victoria.

Speaking of characters, Lucy as a character is a wonderful protagonist, particularly as a female lead in a YA paranormal novel. She is strong, and barely phased by her transformation. She just gets on with it, she doesn’t moan, whine or cry. Although there is some romance, it doesn’t completely consume her and she never gets soppy. She’s smart, quick-witted and generally a strong character all round, and manages to avoid cliches. We need more female protagonists like her.

Now as for the downsides of the book: I managed to guess one character’s secret very early on into the story, which made the big reveal much less of an impact – I feel that perhaps Cornwall left too many clues for that one. I have to say, the ending was a bit of an anti-climax and over rather soon – but I felt the rest of the story kept it up at a five-star rating. There were also quite a few spelling and grammar mistakes, but as I read an ARC I’m hoping that they’ll all be corrected in the final edition.

I highly recommend this one, even if you haven’t read Dracula! (I haven’t… better get on it.) It is beautifully written, and a fun read – especially if you want a more ‘intelligent’ feeling YA novel. If the steampunk element is putting you off, I would say don’t let it – steampunk is only a very light part of the novel.

View on Goodreads

Edit: 13/08/2013 – so apparently my review was featured on Edelweiss, and I only just noticed! Yay!