Whether or not you are familiar with the paranormal sub-genre steampunk, these "retro futuristic" books are definitely here to stay. However, with so many different types of stories, readers can easily become confused by these gear and steam laden tales. But don't despair, we are here to help! Today we discuss what constitutes a steampunk story, suggest a few starter books for readers new to the sub-genre and preview a few of the upcoming tales that we can’t get our hand on. So let’s take a page from the steampunk genre and put on our traveling goggles to prepare for adventure!
SO, WHAT IS STEAMPUNK ?
The term “steampunk” is thought to have been coined during the 1980s, as an alternative to cyberpunk, to describe the books written in an HG Wells-ian and Jules Vern-ian style. At its most specific, the term refers to an alternate Victorian-era England where steam-powered inventions are all the rage. However, this premise provided so much fodder for authors and creators who quickly re-imagined the entire world pivotally changing at this moment in time.
So readers will find steampunk stories, or steampunk-esque stories, set on the American frontier, all across Europe and even in China, such as J.K. Coi’s “Iron Seduction.” And in some cases, steampunk stories don’t even have to be set in the 1800s, two noteworthy steampunk tales that fall into this category — although they are at opposite ends of the spectrum — are Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, YA books set during WWI, and the erotic romance "Lady Doctor Wyre", by Joley Sue Burkhart, which is set in a an alternate steam-based future.
The label steampunk can also be applied to all art, music, clothing and beyond that has its basis in the Victorian era with modifications that give a nod to the importance of technology in this re-imagined time period. A quick look at some steampunk enthusiasts gathered for the RT Booklovers Convention conveys an idea of just how much diversity exists in the Steampunk universe.
Authors and readers get in the steampunk spirit at the RT Booklovers Convention
I’M NEW TO STEAMPUNK, WHERE SHOULD I START?
We know that trying out a new sub-genre for the first time can be intimidating. We always recommend Meljean Brook’s steampunk series starter Iron Duke for romance readers who are interested in the steampunk world but want a read that is at once extremely accessible and will give you a taste for what these books are all about. This tale won the October 2010 RT Seal of Excellence and is a very good place for new readers to start.
However, if you are hunting for a slightly more guided reading experience, today we offer you three suggestions for new steampunk stories, based on the types of books you read and love.
If You Like Paranormal Romance ...
Fans of family-centric tales with an element of danger and suspense, such as January 2010’s paranormal romance novel The Lure of Song and Magic by Patricia Rice, will most likely enjoy The Slayer by Theresa Meyers.
Meyers’ April 2012 RT Top Pick! will have readers falling in love with the honorable hero Winn Jackson, who is trying to stay far away from his family’s legacy as demon hunters — only to exchange words, and then passionate kisses, with Contessa Drossenburg, Alexandra Porter, who happens to be a vampire from Transylvania. This unlikely duo make their way across Europe to try to save Alexandra’s countrymen in The Legend Chronicles’ action-packed series second. (We also suggest that you pick up the first book in the series, 2011’s The Hunter.)
If You Like Romantic Suspense ....
If Karen Robards is your author of choice, and you can’t get enough of tales that feature men and women facing dangerous circumstances for their family and friends, then we suggest that when heading into steampunk territory you go straight to The Iron Heart by Leslie Dicken.
Dicken introduces readers to Ellie Wilder, a young woman who has sworn to uncover her sister’s murderer. With the help of nobleman Bennett Pierce, Ellie tracks a killer through the streets of London. But what will she do when she discovers that Bennett has his own secrets about that night? RT Reviewer Amy says, “Dicken does a magnificent job of creating a story that’s a perfect blend of fear, lust, love and mystery. Not to be missed.”
If You Like Urban Fantasy ...
You certainly aren’t alone in your preference, and there’s a new steampunk story for you, too. Urban fantasy fans, like those who love Karen Marie Moning’s Fever books featuring the intrepid MacKayla Lane who becomes caught between the clash of the human and fae worlds, will be pleased with Wicked as They Come by Delilah S. Dawson.
In this steampunk tale, heroine Tish Everett purchases a locket at an estate sale that transports her to the dark and mystical land of Sang, where she becomes trapped when her locket is stolen. But will her ability to tell fortunes, and her attraction to the area’s circus ringmaster and magician Criminy Stain, be able to keep her alive? Says RT Senior Reviewer Jill, “Join the adventure; you won’t be sorry you did!"
If You Like Historical Fiction ...
If you prefer to read fictionalized accounts of past real life events, you will be pleased to learn that there are steampunk stories for you! Historical fiction fans that love author Anne Perry's World War One series are sure to enjoy Tilda Booth's 2010 steampunk tale "Stealing Utopia". Booth's steampunk e-book features HG Wells in an alternate history where the author is involved in working with the government to spearhead human experimentation in order to create a "smarter, better" race.
Heroine Jane Robbins is categorically against any such thing and will stop at nothing - not even kidnapping the famous author - in order to make sure that England does not indiscriminately treat citizen like lab rats.
I’VE READ TONS OF STEAMPUNK, WHAT’S COMING NEXT?
Steampunk is a genre that is (not so) slowly gathering steam, pardon our pun. But with so many options out there, which books are making our must-read radars spike? Today we take a quick look at the two release dates of May you should be marking on your calendar.
WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I HAVE TO REMEMBER ABOUT STEAMPUNK?
If you only learn one thing from this post, we hope that this “sentiment in song” from Pikedevant, aka Sir Reginal Pikedevant, Esquire, makes an impression. It will certainly get stuck in your head (in the most delightful way). The song easily explains what is (and decidedly is not) steampunk for those who are curious about where the boundaries actually lie:
Will you be trying steampunk reads for the first time, or have you been reading these books for ages and would like to offer first-timers your own suggestions? Leave your comments below and keep your eyes open for more steampunk stories on RT’s Everything Paranormal Page and RT’s Everything Fantasy Page.