1816, the year without a summer. A group of geniuses descended on Geneva and, in an attempt to save the body and mind of Lord Byron, perform dreadful and forbidden experiments that change history forever.
Definition of Steampunk: A subgenre of speculative science fiction set in an anachronistic 19th century society, dealing with advanced technology in the altered past.
Although this definition helps to give a notion of what exactly Steampunk is, the authors of The Shadow Conspiracy are in agreement that Steampunk defies a single definition. And to further said opinion they came together to present their own unique visions within ten original stories.
In a recent interview with Chris Dolley of the Book View Café I asked him what the cooperative’s most downloaded title was:
“That would be The Shadow Conspiracy, an original steampunk anthology of short stories written by various BVC authors set in a shared alternate earth, a place powered by steam and magic. A world of dreamers, experimenters and engineers, soulless humans and ensouled machines born of most unlikely parents: four poets who gathered one cold summer on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1816. Byron, Shelley, Mary Shelley and Dr. Polidori. The stories explore the unfolding consequences of that gathering — and how it changed everything we thought we knew about science and ourselves,” replied Dolly.
And that in essence is what makes this collection so appealing and so much fun to read. You can then add in the authors’ love of Victorian fashion and their fascination with the beautiful brass-worked, steam-powered machines and the result is a wonderful steampunk anthology that really makes you think “What if?” on many occasions. I personally believe that the perfect steampunk author would be a hybrid of Arthur Conan Doyle and Isaac Asimov and the work the newly created author produced would not be too dissimilar from the contents of this collection with glorious Victorian settings, the sensibilities of the time, fantastic inventions plus intrigue and mystery (although some pea-soup fog would have been nice).
While all the stories are good, two stand out as being that little bit extra special. Zombi, by Pati Nagle, is an enthralling tale of slavery and superstition set in a delightfully realised New Orleans. But it is The Soul Jar by Steven Piziks, author of the Silent Empire novels, that was my personal favourite. A sequel to his story Thin Man, which first appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, it is a beautifully woven tale of a cursed circus life, forbidden love, dangerous experiments and ingenious automatons and is worth the price of purchase alone.
The Shadow Conspiracy will appeal greatly to lovers of steampunk, science fiction and alternate history. Featuring very strong female characters (something that the BVC consistently encourages), brilliant ideas and thought-provoking subject matter, it is an anthology that I highly recommend. What really happened in the villa on Lake Geneva that long ago year without a summer, 1816? Read it and find out.
The Shadow Conspiracy: Tales from the Age of Steam, edited by Phyllis Irene Radford and Laura Anne Gilman
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 599 KB
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Book View Press (15 Nov 2009)
Thank you to the Book View Cafe for kindly supplying the review copy. For more information on this and many other titles, visit http://www.bookviewcafe.com/
Review by Floresiensis
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