The Steampunk Trilogy

The Steampunk Trilogy - Paul Di Filippo

(I got an e-copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

A strange read, not totally devoid of interest, but that didn't do much for me, probably in part because its title is definitely misleading when it comes to "steampunk" as a genre, and isn't representative of what it entails. It's more Victoriana with a dash of paranormal and alternate history, and references to existing personae (poets, scientists...) and literary works (not always exact—Nana isn't Balzac's work, but Zola's). This book's title was seemingly what coined the term "steampunk", though there's not a whiff of "steam" in there. Sometimes the mind boggles.

As a whole, sometimes it was accurate enough in its depiction of 19th century society, and sometimes it just didn't work at all.

"Victoria" was amusing enough, if you appreciate a somewhat rompish humour. But its ending was highly unbelievable and improbable, considering the person involved. I just don't see how anyone in circles of power would consider that a good idea, certainly not in British politics.

"Hottentots" I found mostly boring and disjointed, with no real sense of a plot. I kept reading it because it made fun of Agassiz, and nothing else—the humour helps defuse his racist thoughts and jingoism, which otherwise are pretty cringeworthy and hard to stand. Also, Cesar's transcribed accent distracted me and threw me out of the story's flow basically every time he opened his mouth). While there's a wide variety of accents in languages, such transcriptions in literature are seldom well-done, and too quickly fall in the "too much" category. Not a good idea here, and clearly the story I liked the least (oh, scratch that: I didn't like it at all). I'd say its only interest was in the satire department.

"Walt and Emily" was more interesting to me, because I know their poetry well enough, could find my marks there, and the planned trip to the Summerland felt at least like there was some plot there, one that fit with the two poets' works. Style-wise, it was also the most lyrical, and I quite liked this. Unfortunately, it couldn't really make up for the rest of the book.