Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Review: Gears of Brass Anthology

Gears of Brass Anthology
Gears of Brass Anthology by Jordan Elizabeth

My rating: 0 of 5 stars

For me, choosing to pick up a steampunk anthology of authors I'm unfamiliar with is the triumph of hope over experience. Steampunk, all too often, consists of wonderful ideas poorly executed. In the first three stories of this book, though, I encountered OK ideas executed to a mediocre standard. That's as far as I got, because life is too short to read books I'm not particularly enjoying.

The first and third stories, by the editor, Jordan Elizabeth, were also darker than I prefer. They reveal a lack of facility with apostrophes, and language in general. As plots, they work well enough, though the second one has a soft ending, but in both cases there were nasty serial-killer characters without redeeming features. The second Jordan Elizabeth story (the third in the book) also has a professor who is absent-minded to the point of idiocy (she doesn't make any connection between the mechanical wolves her protege is making and the fact that everyone in the village has been killed by wolves), and I don't generally appreciate characters carrying the Idiot Ball.

One of the problems of steampunk is that the Victorianism and/or the Englishness usually isn't well conveyed. This is one of the two main problems of the second story in the collection, "Zeus's Fire" by Lorna MacDonald. There's no sense of it being set in England, to me, particularly since the dialog is pure modern American ("Are you okay?" "You suckers!" "Yeah, what she said!"). It was only when Southampton was mentioned near the end that I finally resolved the question of whether it was even supposed to be England.

The other main problem of that story is an odd one I've noticed in a few inexperienced writers: they use simple past ("Peter assured Edward that he made improvements") when past perfect is called for ("Peter assured Edward that he had made improvements"). This problem comes up repeatedly, and is distracting, because I had to stop and untangle when everything had happened.

The story also ends inconclusively, in a way that suggests it's the first episode in a much longer story.

I've read steampunk that is much worse than this, but, in the first three stories at least, it doesn't rise above mediocrity, and so I didn't read any further.

(No star rating because I didn't finish.)

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