My Top 5 All-Time Steampunk Stories

I’ve been Tweeting out links to old reviews all month in honor of #SteampunkMonth.  Yesterday, Jon Del Arroz posted his all-time top 5 Steampunk novels to the Superversive SF blog (Arroz has a Steampunk novel of his own coming out tomorrow, For Steam and Country).  Today, I post my own all-time top 5 Steampunk stories.

This is not intended to be a list of the best Steampunk stories of all time.  It’s to my personal taste and, more importantly, limited by just how poorly read I am in the sub-genre.  I’ve never read Boneshaker, The Difference Engine, or Leviathan, for example.  I am also broadly considering “Steampunk” to include Flintlock Fantasy and Mannerpunk.  I think those sub-sub-genres fit well enough inside the broader umbrella of Steampunk along with more traditional and pure Steampunk stories.  (Note, too, that I am insistent on saying “stories” instead of “novels,” allowing me to sneak in an entire trilogy.)  I frankly prefer Flintlock Fantasy and Mannerpunk to straight Steampunk, and my selections reflect that.

Without further ado, my all-time top 5, in alphabetical order, because I couldn’t possibly rank them:

 

The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

[T]he humor never gets in the way of action.  There is a bit of a slow start, but when they spot an enemy scout on their trial run, things kick into high gear.  The last half of the book had me gripping the armrests on my chair.  The big battle at the end is as good as anything Brian McClellan wrote.  It’s bloody and dirty and visceral in the way any well written early 19th Century-esque battle ought to be.

Read full review.

 

 

Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

Perdido Street Station, Mieville’s steampunk amalgamation of fantasy, science fiction, and new weird, is a story of betrayal, loss, and unintended consequences. It also features some of the most terrifying “big bad” monsters—called slake-moths and unwittingly unleashed on his city by our protagonist, Isaac—ever represented in print.

 

 

 

The Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan

As an epic fantasy I would put it up about just about any series, and it has to be considered an ur- or über-Flintlock Fantasy.  The setting closely resembles revolutionary era France, complete with early industrialization and Enlightenment thinking, and there is even a gunpowder-based magic system.

Read review of book 1.

 

Quintessence by David Walton

One (of a few things) that sets Quintessence apart is how the characters react to magic.  These are men who know nothing of magic.  But they’re also men of (proto-)science.  So they approach the magic wonders of the New World with a scientific curiosity.  They are also, if not men of faith, men for whom faith is a matter of no small importance.  And thus Walton has his prism through which to explore an intersection of science, faith, and magic.

Read full review.

 

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Sorcerer to the Crown is genuinely and pervasively funny. It is not, though, a farce, and the only stumble is when Cho veers into that territory with clumsy subplot involving Prunella entering society in search of a rich husband. And the climax is silly in the best sort of way . . . .

Sorcerer to the Crown is definitely Mannerpunk, and it has the sort of wonderful Regency era language (although your mileage may vary). It is set in England during the Napoleonic Wars (or near abouts—Napoleon is mentioned). There is a great romance in there, and the book has all of the intricate social maneuvering you would expect, along with an intricate magic system.

Read full review.

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About H.P.

Blogs on speculative fiction books at Every Day Should Be Tuesday.
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6 Responses to My Top 5 All-Time Steampunk Stories

  1. Tammy says:

    I can’t believe I’ve never heard the term “Mannerpunk” before! I’ve only read Perdido Street Station on this list but I’m very keen on picking up The Guns Above. Great list!

    Liked by 1 person

    • H.P. says:

      Have you read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell or Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories?

      Like

      • Tammy says:

        I’ve read Jonathan Strange, and everyone raves about the Glamourist Histories, but I haven’t read them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • H.P. says:

        I have a copy of Jonathan Strange but haven’t read it yet. I’ve read all but the last of the Glamourist Historories. They are excellent, and get better as they go, but Cho exceeds them right out of the gate.

        Anyway, those are what I think of at the prototypical works of mannerpunk, riffing off of Georgette Heyer’s books and especially Jane Austen’s. (I suppose after I finally read Jonathan Strange and the last of the Glamourist Histories I should finally get to Austen herself.)

        Like

  2. Bookstooge says:

    Boneshaker. It is everything that I don’t like about Steampunk 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: For Steam and Country | Planetary Defense Command

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