Saturday, September 1, 2012

Steampunk books for tweens and teens, part 1 (Book reviews)

My 15-year-old is now generally too busy to listen to books read aloud at home. It's hard to listen to a book while watching a movie, texting with your girlfriend, and creating dubstep music all at once, as it turns out. Multitasking can only go so far.

The good news is, my 12 year old still enjoys sharing books with me and we've found a niche that's working well for both of us.

Leviathan   By Westerfeld, Scott(2009)  
 It started with me seeing Scott Westerfeld speak at the  Wordstock literary festival in what must have been 2009 because his book Leviathan was brand new. I was so impressed with his vision for the illustrated series that I almost bought the book at the festival but ended up deciding to wait and I'm glad I did. I don't think Evan was quite ready for it at that point, and by the time we did read Leviathan, the second book in the series had come out so we were able to move forward directly.

Evan was enthralled with the world of Leviathan, an alternate history of World War 1 where Darwinism has allowed scientists to genetically modify creatures to combine them with technology. The message lizards (who work as an intercom system, but literally run through tubes on the airship, precisely mimicking the voice of any message sender) never failed to crack us up. The airship, which is a giant living creature itself, captured our hearts right along with the rest of the characters. And the historical aspect was interesting enough to leave Evan in search of more books set during World War 1 as we finished book two in the series, Behemoth.

While waiting, fingers tapping, for Goliath to come out (this is all ancient history--we've since read, and loved, Goliath), we used the Multnomah County Library's wonderful "Ask the Librarian" email service to ask whether there was another book "like Leviathan that takes place in Russia or Germany during the first World War." Rachael the librarian wrote back days later with magnificent suggestions of titles Evan might like (none of which were exactly what he had hoped for, because that book hasn't been written yet). I'll get back to her list in another post, but in the meantime we found this on the shelf:

Steampunk!An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories
This collection of short stories from a variety of genres and settings, was truly one of the best anthologies I've read. I loved the way the steampunk theme drew the stories together. There was so much variety in interpretation of the genre, writing style, setting, and mood, that the theme served as a method of branching us out into other genres we wouldn't have explored otherwise.

Not to say that we loved every story. Evan can't abide poor grammar as a narrative device, and so we had to stop after a couple of pages of The Last Ride of the Glory Girls  by Libba Bray. We just couldn't plow our way through Ysabeau S. Wilce's Hand in Glove--a grisly detective mystery that would probably appeal to those who love grisly detective mysteries, but wasn't for us. But Cory Doctorow's Clockwork Fagin--a steampunk Oliver Twist--was a winner. So was The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor, Delian Sherman's steampunk ghost story

I think I loved  Steam Girl best of all, though. This story by Dylan Horrock is a departure from the rest in that it has the voice of the first-person realistic fiction that I'm normally drawn to. I especially loved being able to read this one aloud to Evan, with whom I don't generally get to share those books. Horrock is mainly known for his graphic novels Hicksville and Atlas, and okay I'll read the graphic novels but he is apparently working on a novel? Get to it, Dylan! Steampunk or not, I am waiting.
After we finished the Steampunk anthology, we started on Kenneth Oppel's series of adventures of airship cabin boy, Matt Cruse. I'm going to try to get Evan to help me review these, though--and I can smell Ben cooking bacon downstairs!--so we'll have to save this discussion, and the rest of my Tween Steampunk list, for another day.

--by Alison Jakel

1 comment:

  1. I have yet to read Leviathan but it IS on my tbr.