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Steampunk! ed. by K. Link and G. J. Grant

Link, Kelly, and Gavin J. Grant, eds. Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories. Somerville: Candlewick Press, 2011. Print.

It's interesting to consider the steampunk trend in contrast with the steampunk genre. If one defines steampunk strictly as a trend then it would be easy to assume that it has reached and surpassed its pinnacle as a popular trend (and certainly a hipster one) after having reached a plateau of modest public awareness. All the gears, brass and buckles associated with its afficionados have been lightly mocked and the world has moved on. It might be easy to forget that, as a literary genre, steampunk has a genuine durability. Steampunk been around sparking writers’ and artists’ creative imaginations for some time and it seems probable that it will continue to do so as the more clichéd charms of the trend’s most recent manifestations fade.

The diversity and quality of the stories included in Steampunk! are an indication of the rich and entertaining possibilities inherent in the genre. The stories range in subject from post-feminist-western-train-heist-with-time-travel (Last Ride of the Glory Girls, by Libba Bray) to Edwardian-romance-with-robots (Everything Amiable and Obliging, by Holly Black) and mechanical-Dickensian-doppelgangers (Clockwork Fagin, by Cory Doctorow). All these stories are mischievous and riveting action-packed fun. Co-editor, Kelly Link (The Summer People) and M.T. Anderson's (The Oracle Engine) contributions - utterly different from the previously mentioned stories and from each other - adeptly employ calculated pacing and succeed in being subtly sinister and thought-provoking. There are even two compelling, and again, completely different, graphic novels thrown into the mix (Seven Days Beset by Demons, by Shawn Cheng and Finishing School, by Kathleen Jennings).

Steampunk is a genre infatuated with the novelty of conflating ideas and aesthetics from different periods of history, curiosity about technology and a precocious desire to upend conventional narrative and characterization. Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories benefits from the astute and mindful curation by its editors, avoids seeming over-thought and stilted, and succeeds in illustrating how steampunk as a genre is very amendable to imaginative and (mildly) transgressive literature for young adults.

I'm at great pains to avoid the word "mash-up" but that is a bit of what steampunk is; a unconstrained, tart and pulpy mash of genres. Steampunk! is an exuberant and convincing sampling and a reminder not to dismiss the genre along with the fashion aviator’s goggles.

Highly Recommended:  4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Matilda Roche

Matilda spends her days lavishing attention on the University of Alberta’s metadata but children’s illustrated books, literature for young adults and graphic novels also make her heart sing. Her reviews benefit from the critical influence of a four year old daughter and a one year old son – both geniuses. Matilda’s super power is the ability to read comic books aloud.