The best steampunk books
A subgenre of speculative science fiction set in an anachronistic 19th century society, dealing with advanced technology in the altered past.
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 rivers are sluggish with unnatural effluent, and factories and foundries pound into the night. For more than a thousand years, the parliament and its brutal militia have ruled over a vast array of workers and artists, spies, magicians, junkies and whores. Now a stranger has come, with a pocketful of gold and an impossible demand, and inadvertently something unthinkable is released. Soon the city is gripped by an alien terror - and the fate of millions depends on a clutch of outcasts on the run from lawmakers and crime-lords alike. The urban nightscape becomes a hunting ground as battles rage in the shadows of bizarre buildings. And a reckoning is due at the city's heart, in the vast edifice of Perdido Street Station. It is too late to escape.
"China Miéville, poster boy for the so-called "new weird", is one of the most interesting and promising writers to appear in the last few years in any genre. Perdido Street Station is a fantastic yarn that follows the roads set by M John Harrison in his Viriconium world and brings an enormous energy and creativity to the table. A reinvention of modern fantasy with guts, brains and plenty of glory. Plunge in." The Guardian
"Perdido Street Station is a well written and absorbing story aimed at breaking the rules for a number of different fantasy concepts. There are some minor issues regarding information overload and the use of profanities which can quickly remove the sense of immersion, but these are easily overcome by the beauty and creativity of the world that Mieville has created. Perdido Street Station is a very intricate and complex novel that provides a refreshing challenge to the way in which epic fantasy is traditionally explored." Fantasy Book Review
Fever Crumb is a stunning, stand-alone prequel to Philip Reeve's brilliant science fantasy quartet. It is set many generations before the events of Mortal Engines, in whose dazzling world huge, predatory cities chase and devour each other. Now, London is a riot-torn, ruinous town, clinging to a devastated landscape and hiding an explosive secret. Is Fever, adopted daughter of Dr Crumb, the strange key that will unlock its dangerous mysteries?
"Though I’m still trying to figure out whether its Reeves amazingly detailed imagination or the headstrong Fever Crumb is responsible for it, this book has taken its place in the pinnacle. My favourite. For now. " Fantasy Book Review
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 London filled with deformed clowns, organised beggar societies, insane homunculi and magic. When he is kidnapped by gypsies and consequently misses his return trip to 1983, the mild-mannered Doyle is forced to become a street-smart con man, escape artist, and swordsman in order to survive in the dark and treacherous London underworld. He defies bullets, black magic, murderous beggars, freezing waters, imprisonment in mutant-infested dungeons, poisoning, and even a plunge back to 1684. Coleridge himself and poet Lord Byron make appearances in the novel, which also features a poor tinkerer who creates genetic monsters and a werewolf that inhabits others' bodies when his latest becomes too hairy.
"After I was introduced to Tim Powers through his Cold War fantasy, Declare, I attempted to track down his earlier works at libraries and used bookstores. Several proved impossible to find. Among these was the novel that first made him famous: The Anubis Gates, so eventually I gave in and bought a new copy. Now, having read it, I understand the reason for its rarity: no one in their right mind would relinquish a copy of such a marvelous book!" Fantasy Book Review
In 1944, as waves of German ninjas parachute into Kent, Britain’s best hopes for victory lie with a Spitfire pilot codenamed ‘Ack-Ack Macaque’. The trouble is, Ack-Ack Macaque is a cynical, one-eyed, cigar-chomping monkey, and he’s starting to doubt everything, including his own existence. A century later, in a world where France and Great Britain merged in the late 1950s and nuclear-powered Zeppelins encircle the globe, ex-journalist Victoria Valois finds herself drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the man who butchered her husband and stole her electronic soul. Meanwhile, in Paris, after taking part in an illegal break-in at a research laboratory, the heir to the British throne goes on the run. And all the while, the doomsday clock ticks towards Armageddon.
"Ack-Ack Macaque shows just what is possible by combining new idea and creating a unique world and a set of characters, a monkey, who would have guessed! Gareth L. Powell will be an author to look out for." Jasper de Joode, Fantasy Book Review
When the body of a murdered woman is found in the extraordinary, decaying city of Besźel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks like a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he probes, the evidence begins to point to conspiracies far stranger, and more deadly, than anything he could have imagined. Soon his work puts him and those he cares for in danger. Borlú must travel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own, across a border like no other. With shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984 , The City & The City is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.
"And yes, this is a great story. Mieville has delivered and lived up to the hype generated by his early work, in particular the Bas-Lag series. While this is a vastly different book to that epic series, there is no change in quality." Charlie White, Fantasy Book Review
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 development of steam-driven cybernetic Engines, is in full and drastic swing. Great Britain, with her calculating-cannons, steam dreadnoughts, machine-guns and information technology, prepares to better the world's lot...
"This collaborative effort from William Gibson and Bruce Sterling (the only to date) is a prime example of the ‘Steampunk’ genre and a bold imaginative ‘alternate history’ novel. It is set in London in 1855 where the computer age has arrived a century ahead of time with the great steam-driven (Charles) Babbage Engines powering the Industrial Revolution. Thanks to this huge leap in technology Great Britain with her calculating-cannons, steam dreadnoughts, machine-guns and information technology bestrides the globe like an unopposed colossus." Fantasy Book Review
The young Verne and his best friend Andre Nemo stow away on a ship bound for the high seas, but Jules' father catches Jules and forces him to come home in total disgrace. Nemo goes on to have all the adventures, battling pirates, fighting sea monsters, being shipwrecked, ballooning across Africa etc. Jules eventually turns these real life tales of his friend into his popular novels.
"This hugely ambitious project takes the reader behind Jules Verne’s enigmatic, mysterious loner Captain Nemo (called Andre Nemo here). Anderson provides us with an exhilarating tale that spans a lifetime from childhood dreams and fantasies with friends Jules Verne (a masterstroke by Anderson) and Caroline Aronnax, to life on the high seas and adulthood." Fantasy Book Review
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 miracle about be revealed... These are the ingredients of an astonishing story. It is the story of a prisoner's journey. Of the search for the island of a forgotten people, for the most astonishing beast in the seas, and ultimately for a fabled place - a massive wound in reality, a source of unthinkable power and danger.
"The Scar was a total delight to read and really had me enthralled from page 1 to 578! The Bas-Lag universe that is just magnificent, and this, combined with his engrossing way of story-telling, really makes The Scar a must read. His genre “weird fiction” is just wonderful."
Jacob Carnehan has settled down. He's living a comfortable, quiet life, obeying the law and minding his own business while raising his son Carter ... on those occasions when he isn't having to bail him out of one scrape or another. His days of adventure are - thankfully - long behind him. Carter Carnehan is going out of his mind with boredom. He's bored by his humdrum life, frustrated that his father won't live a little, and longs for the bright lights and excitement of anywhere-but-here. He's longing for an opportunity to escape, and test himself against whatever the world has to offer. Carter is going to get his opportunity. He's caught up in a village fight, kidnapped by slavers and, before he knows it, is swept to another land. A lowly slave, surrounded by technology he doesn't understand, his wish has come true: it's him vs. the world. He can try to escape, he can try to lead his fellow slaves, or he can accept the inevitable and try to make the most of the short, brutal existence remaining to him... unless Jacob gets to him first and, no matter the odds, he intends to. No one kidnaps his son and gets away with it - and if it come to it, he'll force Kings to help him on his way, he'll fight, steal, blackmail and betray his friends in the name of bringing Carter home. Wars will be started. Empires will fall. And the Carnehan family will be reunited, one way or another...
"Stephen Hunt has produced a well plotted and paced adventure that captures the imagination and entertains throughout. Despite its length, In Dark Service never sags or slows down. Told from many different perspectives, it avoids large info dumps and ciphers. There is a real immediacy and heightened sense of drama that sweeps the reader up." Daniel Cann, Fantasy Book Review
Art and his family are invited on a fantastic free holiday to the exotic Asteroid Belt, in a remote part of space near Mars. Taking the train, they arrive to discover that nothing is quite as it seems - the hotel slips curiously back and forth through time, and the guests behave rather strangely too. What is behind these bizarre goings-on? It's up to Jack Havock, Art and his sister Myrtle (against her will) to get to the bottom of things. But the giant sand clams and man-eating starfish which roam freely nearby are nothing compared to the True Enemy, which is cunning, sinister, and almost unstoppable and may resemble a hat.
Evil is most assuredly afoot - and Britain’s fate rests in the hands of an alluring renegade... and a librarian. These are dark days indeed in Victoria’s England. Londoners are vanishing, then reappearing, washing up as corpses on the banks of the Thames, drained of blood and bone. Yet the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences - the Crown’s clandestine organization whose bailiwick is the strange and unsettling - will not allow its agents to investigate. Fearless and exceedingly lovely Eliza D. Braun, however, with her bulletproof corset and a disturbing fondness for dynamite, refuses to let the matter rest - and she’s prepared to drag her timorous new partner, Wellington Books, along with her into the perilous fray. For a malevolent brotherhood is operating in the deepening London shadows, intent upon the enslavement of all Britons. And Books and Braun - he with his encyclopedic brain and she with her remarkable devices - must get to the twisted roots of a most nefarious plot - or see England fall to the Phoenix!
"The steampunk element is not to be missed, from lococycles to automatons, ornithopters and cyborgs with firearms hidden in prosthetics. A most shocking and electrifying ride through Victorian London." Fantasy Book Review
In short this is a great read that will appeal to lovers of great graphic novels and stylish steampunk stories alike. By all accounts the series is going to run to five books, and if Bryan Talbot keeps the momentum going then they’ll be a ground breaking work.
The Steampunk Adventurer’s Guide is great fun and simply a really good idea. Willeford clearly loves his craft and with his story accompanied by artwork from Phil Foglio it is attractively packaged. Along with all of this, Willeford also manages a discussion on ‘What is Steampunk’ and an appendix of suggested reading, viewing, gaming, music and more.
Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace. Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy's shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion - to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory. And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity's ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake.
"Up, up, the winds and mists call the Grimm and wildcats. Duty, freedom and protection of family, new and old calls, as War blazes and the few and dedicated will be required to preserve the many. Another great series for a master of the genre."
It is a time of revolts and revolutions, conflict and intrigue. New Crobuzon is being ripped apart from without and within. War with the shadowy city-state of Tesh and rioting on the streets at home are pushing the teeming metropolis to the brink. In the midst of this turmoil, a mysterious masked figure spurs strange rebellion, while treachery and violence incubate in unexpected places. In desperation, a small group of renegades escapes from the city and crosses strange and alien continents in the search for a lost hope, an undying legend. In the blood and violence of New Crobuzon's most dangerous hour, there are whispers. It is the time of the Iron Council.
"While not as complete in its grotesque beauty as Perdido Street Station, Iron Council is nevertheless a strange and wonderful story, though I do hope Mieville revisits Bas-Lag in the future, and perhaps gives some of his cast, and indeed the whole society of New Crobuzon, a little more by way of a future, since however it resolves, I can't deny that Mieville has created a world I care about populated by vivid characters; some of whom I have come to love."
While honeymooning in the Tower of Babel, Thomas Senlin loses his wife, Marya. The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel of the Silk Age. Immense as a mountain, the ancient Tower holds unnumbered ringdoms, warring and peaceful, stacked one on the other like the layers of a cake. It is a world of geniuses and tyrants, of airships and steam engines, of unusual animals and mysterious machines. Thomas Senlin, the mild-mannered headmaster of a small village school, is drawn to the Tower by scientific curiosity and the grandiose promises of a guidebook. The luxurious Baths of the Tower seem an ideal destination for a honeymoon, but soon after arriving, Senlin loses Marya in the crowd. Senlin’s search for Marya carries him through madhouses, ballrooms, and burlesque theaters. He must survive betrayal, assassination, and the long guns of a flying fortress. But if he hopes to find his wife, he will have to do more than just survive. This quiet man of letters must become a man of action.
"An extraordinary debut that is well worthy of the hype. A beautifully written, highly engaging page-turning masterpiece where I was on Tom's side every step of the way. I'd read Arm of the Sphinx next if I could but as an #SPFBO judge, I'm currently busy trying to find some more gems like this."
The Revenant Express
Sir Maurice Newbury is bereft as his trusty assistant Veronica Hobbes lies dying with a wounded heart. Newbury and Veronica's sister Amelia must take a sleeper train ac...
The second thrilling installment of the award-winning Nevernight Chronicle, from New York Times bestselling author Jay Kristoff.In a land where three suns a...
By Raven's Call
J A Devenport
Faced with increasing pressure from rebels, the tyrant king of Dargenn must force a war with the rival nation of Relan to unite the country behind him. To help create chaos...
Arm of the Sphinx
Forced by necessity into a life of piracy, Senlin and his eclectic crew struggle to survive aboard their stolen airship as the hunt for his lost wife continues. But the Tow...
The Lost Plot
In a 1920s-esque America, Prohibition is in force, fedoras, flapper dresses and tommy guns are in fashion, and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find the...
Charlotte is learning to control her emerging magical powers under the secret tutelage of Magus Hopkins. Her first covert mission takes her to a textile mill where the disg...
While honeymooning in the Tower of Babel, Thomas Senlin loses his wife, Marya. The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel of the Silk Age. Immense as a mountain, the ancient...
It is a time of revolts and revolutions, conflict and intrigue. New Crobuzon is being ripped apart from without and within. War with the shadowy city-state of Tesh and riot...
The year is 1850 and Great Britain is flourishing, thanks to the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts. When a new mage is discovered, Royal Society elites descend like buzzar...
Recommended reads by sub-genre
Select a sub-genre below to see which books we highly recommend.
High / Epic fantasy
Secondary world with epic characters, themes, and plot
Heroic / Sword and Sorcery
Fantasy with heroic adventures
Fantasy narrative with an urban setting
Historical fantasy / fiction
Historical fiction with fantasy elements
Bleak subject matter and a dystopian setting
Fantasy set in parallel worlds
Science / Speculative
Draws elements from both science fiction and fantasy
Fantasy for ages up to 12
Fantasy for ages 12+
Fantasy for ages 18+
Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic
Fiction set in dark, nightmarish worlds
Monarchy / Empire
Fantasy books with empires at their core
Fiction with elements of fear, horror, death, gloom and romance
Fiction with vampiric characters
Fiction with werewolf characters
Fiction with steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology
Fiction with the legendary, scaled, fire-breathing creatures
Wizards / Magicians
Fantasy with wizards, witches, magicians, sorceresses...
Lore, Legend and Mythology
Inspired by ancient folklore and mythology
Fantasy books focusing on mailtary life
Roman historical fiction
Explore the ancient Roman Empire
Books exploring the galaxy of the ever-popular franchise
Animal fantasy books
Fantasy with sentient animals
The Thief / Assassin
Fantasy books starring the thief or the assassin
Fiction exploring beyond the laws of nature
Japanese comic books and graphic novels
Liked to be scared? These books will do that...
For the reader who loves to laugh
Inspired by Tolkien
Love Lord of the Rings? Now try these...
The best science fiction and fantasy anthlogies