The Shadow Conspiracy by Brenda Clough


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

  • The Accumulating Man by Maya Kaathryn Bonhoff;
  • The Persistence of Souls by Sarah Zettel;
  • The Soul Jar by Steven Piziks;
  • Zombi by Pati Nagle;
  • A Princess of Wittgenstein by Jennifer Stevenson;
  • The Savage and the Monster by Nancy Jane Moore;
  • The Water Weapon by Brenda W. Clough;
  • The Sisters of Perpetual Adoration by Judith Tarr;
  • Shadow Dancer by Irene Radford;
  • The Mind of Ada Lovelace by Brenda W. Clough.

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

Review by


More Brenda Clough reviews

Revise the World

by Brenda Clough

On March 16, 1912, British polar explorer Titus Oates commits suicide by walking out of his tent into an Antarctic blizzard, to save Robert Falcon Scott and the other membe [...]

Published: 0000

Score: 80

Our rating: 8.0 | 0 positive reader reviews


The Shadow Conspiracy reader reviews

8.8/10 from 1 reviews

Write a reader review

There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?

Your rating out of 10

Books you may also enjoy

Perdido Street Station

by China Mieville

The metropolis of New Crobuzon sprawls at the centre of its own bewildering world. Humans and mutants and arcane races throng the gloom beneath its chimneys, where the rive [...]

Published: 2000

Score: 102

Our rating: 9.8 | 4 positive reader reviews


The Anubis Gates

by Tim Powers

Brendan Doyle is a twentieth-century English professor who travels back to 1810 London to attend a lecture given by English romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This is a [...]

Published: 1983

Score: 96

Our rating: 9.5 | 1 positive reader reviews


The Difference Engine

by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling

The computer age has arrived a century ahead of time with Charles Babbage's perfection of his Analytical Engine. The Industrial Revolution, supercharged by the developm [...]

Published: 1990

Score: 92

Our rating: 9.2 | 0 positive reader reviews


The Scar

by China Mieville

A colossal fantasy of incredible diversity and spellbinding imagination. A human cargo bound for servitude in exile... A pirate city hauled across the oceans... A hidden mi [...]

Published: 2002

Score: 93

Our rating: 9.2 | 1 positive reader reviews