Welcome to Steampunk World. I am a steampunk neophyte, and didn’t quite know what to expect, my fuzzy conception of steampunk being over conceptualized computers and other gadgets.
So what do all those cogs and wheels and clocks and gears and stuff have to do with literature? Well, I have discovered after a bit of research that steampunk stories all stem from Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, as well as some other VERY early sci fi which used ether as the medium for interplanetary transport. Steampunk today means anachronistic steam technology in a time which did not have it. The plots therefore are basically alternate history kinds of stories, where some basic concept is historically correct, but events are affected by the technology that wasn’t actually available at the time.
So in this story, set during in the United States western areas of St. Louis, and Colorado at the time of the Civil War, has airships (you know, dirigibles) for travel and military use, and cars are in the streets, although horse and carriages were still the predominant mode of transportation.
This is the story of a young man who grew up in the west among the Arapaho indians, (who incidently in the book now own factories, manufacturing the
Arapaho Patented Annealed Belts which were used in machinery and factories all over the East, each made from rubberized non-skid non-stretch buffalo hide. Factories in those days needed a lot of belts for their pulleys and clutches so business was good.
He decides he is tired of the rural plains life and wants to go north to see some cities, but finds himself at the front line of the war effort.
Meanwhile, a sweet young thing of 17 in Philadelphia, having been orphaned and living with her grandmother, once again is faced with another funeral when her grandmother dies. All that is left is an aunt, and the idea that her father who went west to do some mining and is presumed dead, is still alive. So, conveniently having plenty of money from her inheritance, she sets off for Denver. On the train to St. Louis, she meets up with another young woman going to find her wounded husband and bring him home.
Of course, you know that the twain met, and it is a lovely and fun story of their adventures as they look for the missing father in Colorado at the time of the newly minted statehood.
OK, so evaluation: it seemed to me that the steampunk stuff was incidental to the story rather than being integral to the plot . The story would have worked every bit as well if it all had been true to its period. In fact, for me, the out-of-place steampunk elements just got in the way of a story that I was enjoying immensely. I kept having to remind myself that if I can suspend belief for sci fi, then I must do the same for steampunk works.
But what do I know? I’m just a dithering fool who doesn’t know her Kindlepunk from her Airstreams.
Did I tell you I really liked the book anyway? Yeah, I thought I forgot. But I did. Like it. Dither dither. Dither dither.