Friday, January 15, 2010

Steampunk 'n Stuff



Steampunk is a literary genre that fuses science fiction, fantasy, and the Victorian Age to create an alternate history. Basically, technology shows up at a time when it was not possible for this stuff to exist. If you've ever read Jules Verne or watched the original "Wild, Wild West" tv series, that's steampunk. The new Sherlock Holmes movie is an example, too. Quirk Books, those fine publishers who brought us Pride and Prejudice and Zombies will publish a Anna Karenina parody, Android Karenina. Like, vampires are so done.


Scott Westerfeld has jumped on the boat with his latest novel Leviathan. Way back in the early 20th century, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his wife were assassinated. This murder helped touch off World War I. Westerfeld twists things a bit and sets the stage in an alternate world. This world is divided into the Clankers: people who rely on machinery, and the Darwinists: people who have taken Charles Darwin's theories and put them to the test by creating living creatures biologically engineered to perform certain jobs. Both sides despise each other. Prince Aleksander, heir to the Austro-H. throne and Clanker, is left orphaned by his parents' assassination. He is spirited off by his father's loyal servants to keep him safe. The second story line involves Deryn, a British Darwinist who wants to become a pilot for the British Air Service, flying the Leviathan, a biologically engineered airship. Deryn has a big secret. Of course, Aleksander and Deryn meet and "we have met the enemy, and he is us." There's lots of derring-do and edge-of-your seat suspense that makes this a great adventure story. Scott Westerfeld's website: www.scottwesterfeld.com


THE STUFF: The Maze Runner is James Dashner's first novel. Thomas finds himself on what appears to be an enormous moving freight elevator. He has no memory of how or why he got there. The elevator doors open to reveal a walled-in settlement populated solely by teen boys. As a Greenbean, Thomas is not allowed to ask questions, but he's got plenty of them. These boys have been in this place for about two years. Once a month, they're sent a new resident. They get supplies delivered on a regular basis. They have no idea why they're stuck in this place. They only know that they're safe as long as they don't venture outside the walls at night. Nasty creatures roam the woods outside the walls, and woe to the boy who is bitten by one of them. During the day, they send out runners to try and solve the puzzle of the maze that exists in the woods. Then, the day after Thomas arrives, a girl shows up in the elevator. She's not in good shape, but she manages to say "everything is going to change." Oh, boy, does it! There are plenty of twists and turns to keep you reading. The ending is a cliffhanger to set you up for Volume #2 in the trilogy. Reviews compare this to "Lord of the Flies," but it reminds me of an episode of "Lost." You can take a look at The Dashner Dude's blog at http://jamesdashner.blogspot.com
If you're intrigued by the whole steampunk thing, here are some resources:
If you're into reading about kids on their own, here are some suggestions: (Besoides Stephen King's Children of the Corn):
Gone by Michael Grant
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
Can't Get There From Here by Todd Strasser

No comments: