Saturday 13 August 2011

Guest Post: What is Steampunk & Top 5 Steampunk Book Recommendations

Today I have a fantastic guest post from the lovely Hannah from My Book Journey telling us all about Steampunk and giving us her top 5 book recommendations.  When I found out I was going to a Steampunk ball Hannah was one of the people I went to asking for costume ideas and she had a lot of great tips for me so I was very excited when she offered to write a Steampunk guest post for me.  So I'll hand you over to Hannah and let you enter the world of Steampunk!



Steampunk Supreme

At this very moment Sarah is in America at the steampunk ball, dressed up in all her finery and most likely having a spiffing time! So what better topic to look at than steampunk?

At first I thought it might be helpful to define what steampunk is, for those new to the genre. However it’s not as easily definable as I had first thought. The Internet is littered with debates and forums arguing what steampunk means, discussing whether it is actually a genre or an aesthetic.

When we think of steam-punk we automatically think of cogs, gears, alternate histories, steam powered inventions and science fiction. However steampunk isn’t limited to the Victorian period and likewise stories set in the Victorian era aren’t automatically steampunk. The best definition I’ve found is by Mike Perschon at the Steampunk Scholar. He describes it as a blend of technofantasy, neo-Victorianism, and retrofuturism. I’m not going to explain all of this as we could be here a while, but if you want to find out more then visit the Steampunk Scholar’s blog.

For me steampunk is all about the fashion, and I love trawling through websites like Etsy to find unique and interesting pieces of jewellery and clothing.

Regardless of what your connotation is of steampunk, I hope you enjoy it and make it your own. The books I’ve picked out below have all been published in recent years; however there are other reads by authors such Shelly and Verne that are certainly worth looking at.

Top 5 Steampunk books:

1. Soulless by Gail Carriger.

At the center of Soulless's "parasol protectorate" is Miss Alexia Tarabotti, a young woman who lacks not only a suitor but also a soul. And those are not her only problems: When she accidentally kills a vampire, it begins a series of events that she must set out to resolve without the help of any proper authorities.

(Note from Sarah: you can read Hannah's reviews of the first 3 books in the Parasol Protectorate Series on her blog here)

2. The Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest's much-anticipated steampunk debut features the sort of calibrated suspense that readers of her Four and Twenty Blackbirds would expect. Boneshaker derives its title from the Bone-Shaking Drill Engine, a device designed to give Russian prospectors a leg up in the race for Klondike gold. Unfortunately, there was one hitch: On its trial run, the Boneshaker went haywire and, long story short, turned much of Seattle into a city of the dead. Now, 16 years later, a teenage boy decides to find out what is behind that mysterious wall. Can his mother save him in time?

3. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men. Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered. With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

4. Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets - secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona. This doesn't sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart - literally.

5. The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder

It is 1861, and Albertian Britain is in the grip of conflicting forces. Engineers transform the landscape with bigger, faster, noisier and dirtier technological wonders; Eugenicists develop specialist animals to provide unpaid labour; Libertines oppose restrictive and unjust laws and flood the country with propaganda demanding a society based on beauty and creativity; while The Rakes push the boundaries of human behaviour to the limits with magic, sexuality, drugs and anarchy. Returning from his failed expedition to find the source of the Nile, explorer, linguist, scholar and swordsman Sir Richard Francis Burton finds himself sucked into the perilous depths of this moral and ethical vacuum when the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, employs him as "King's Spy."  His first mission: to investigate the sexual assaults committed by a weird apparition known as Spring Heeled Jack; to find out why chimney sweeps are being kidnapped by half-man, half-dog creatures; and to discover the whereabouts of his badly injured former friend, John Hanning Speke. Accompanied by the diminutive and pain-loving poet, Algernon Swinburne, Burton's investigations lead him back to one of the defining events of the age: the brutal assassination of Queen Victoria in 1840; and the terrifying possibility that the world he inhabits shouldn't exist at all.

For more information on steampunk, try the following websites:

• Steampunk Scholar
• Age of Steam

• Etsy
• Steampunk Couture


Thank you so much for a wonderful post Hannah!  I've only read one of your book recommendations (Soulless by Gail Carriger - read my review here) so I've just added 4 more books to my wish list! 

If you don't already follow Hannah make sure you go and pay her a visit at My Book Journey, you can also find her on Twitter here

I'd love to know what you all think of Steampunk: Do you have any other book recommendations?  What do you think of the genre?  What would you wear if you were going to a steampunk ball?


  1. I can't take this post seriously if it doesn't mention Philip Reeve's awesome MORTAL ENGINES anywhere!

  2. Rhys - Perhaps I should do a Part Two post with MORTAL ENGINES in!

  3. This is fab post, Hannah! I haven't heard any steampunk before - thinking I may start with Leviathan, it sounds fab :) x

  4. Great post, I haven't read much SteamPunk so this is a good place to start x

  5. @ Rhys - it sounds like I need to add Mortal Engines to my wish list too! Thanks for the recommendation :o)

    @ Hannah - thanks again for a fabulous guest post!

    @ Carly - I'm still fairly new to steampunk too so need to get started on these recommendations :o)

    @ Susan - I've read a couple of steampunk books but none of these & I think this would be a very good place to start for us newbies :o)

  6. What a fab guest post! I've only read Leviathan (and erm, Mortal Engines!) but I really like the sound of the others too..

  7. Hi Clover, I really must get around to reading some of the books that Hannah recommended oh and Mortal Engines too lol :o) I've enjoyed the steampunk titles I've read but still haven't read many in the genre



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