The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

Title: The strange affair of Spring Heeled Jack (Burton & Swinburne #1)

Author: Mark Hodder

Age/Audience: 15+

Genre/Style: Alternative history, time travel

Read If You Like the idea of a Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes cross-over.

The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack Audiobook
Book Cover

Summary:

Sir Francis Burton, famous explorer, is all set to participate in a heated public debate with his former partner. The debate is intended to not only settle the question of where the Nile River originates, but also repair Burton’s tattered reputation. Instead, Burton is thrust into the search for a man he thought was only a myth: Spring Heeled Jack. Acting as an agent of the king in an alt-history London filled with motorized carriages, genetically modified parakeets who act as messengers,  and on the brink of all out culture war between the Technologists (eugenicists) and the Libertines Burton runs into a plethora of Victorian characters including (but not limited to) Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, Florence Nightingale, and notorious boogeyman Spring Heeled Jack himself.

 

Bottom Line:

Personally, I rated this book a 2.5/5. The Audible narrator was spectacular and I loved the overall theme of the book. However, I am not a fan of time-travel. Placed right in the middle of the book is a semi-separate time-travel almost-short story explaining how SHJ came to be in Victorian London from the year 2202 which I felt really pulled too far from the Steampunk I came to the book for. I also felt the book could have used a better general editor. Meeting a few intentional historical personalities is fun, but meeting everyone and the kitchen sink becomes cumbersome.

 

Find It:

Goodreads Review

Powell’s City of Books 

I highly recommend checking out the audiobook on Audible

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Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart

“Jack et la Mécanique du Coeur” (original title)

Creator: Mathias Malzieu (original novella/composer of all music through his band Dionysos/voice of Jack in the original French tracks)

Media Type: Feature Film, 94 minutes

Audience: Tween to Adult (regardless of what Netflix says).

Note: there isn’t any gore/violence/overt sex that typically warrants a tweens and up suggestion.  And yes, it is a musical, but not a Disney musical with fully orchestrated sing-alongs. Instead this CG film is very surreal and moves very quickly with operatic styled music, which would likely lead it to bore most small children.

Summary:

On the coldest day in history, on the edge of Edinburgh a young woman is desperate to make it to the midwife in time to give birth to her son. The time in the cold, though, has taken it’s toll and the boy is born with a heart made of ice. The midwife (a doctor/inventor named Madeleine who is rumored to be a witch) quickly replaces this ineffective heart with a cuckoo-clock and tells the baby that there are three rules he must follow to keep his cuckoo-heart running:

  1. Never touch the hands of your heart
  2. Keep your temper under control
  3. Never, ever, fall in love.

Jack lives for ten uneventful years safely cooped up in the home he shares with Madeleine and several of her eccentric friends. For his tenth birthday he begs his adoptive mother to let him visit town, which he has never been allowed to do before. She agrees but implores him to abide by his three rules.

He doesn’t.

Instead he falls in love with a beautiful Spanish girl he hears singing at a fountain and decides he must chase the girl of his dreams all the way across Europe. But as time goes by, he begins to worry. Will she remember him? Will she love him the way he loves her? And if she does, can his fragile heart take it?

The Good:

  • This is an incredible film from a visual standpoint. The graphics are fabulously detailed and keep your attention throughout the film.
  • The steampunk elements are frequent (locomotives with bellows segments and horseless carriages to name a few) and intelligently used.
  • The music is emotionally resonant and unique; a breath of fresh air into the musical genre.

The Bad:

  • Tragically, this film suffers from terrible translation issues. The dialog is rushed and doesn’t allow you any time to reflect on what’s said before three more lines are spoken. The US Netflix version is only available in English, but if you can I suggest watching it in the original French with subtitles.
  • It’s weird.
    • Normally this isn’t a negative, but the surreal nature of the film made it sometimes hard to follow. For instance, Jack the Ripper makes an appearance during a traveling song, and it’s not explained or ever brought up again.

Bonus:

Remember this video I posted a few weeks ago?

It’s the single from the Dionysos album called La Mécanique du Cœur was composed and recorded to accompany the novella which the film is adapted from. The above music video was created by the director of the film and in a similar (though not identical) style.

Learn more about The Novella

Learn more about The Album

Learn more about The Film

Also instead of a trailer, below is a clip from the film. This is where Jack meets Miss Acacia. It gives a great taste for the films music and style. 

et en Français:

Let me know what you think of the movie in the comments or via Twitter @SteamLib.

Steel & Sky

Author: Ren Cummins
Series: Tales of the Dead Man

Age/Audience: Tweens

Genre/Style: Adventure

Read If You Like: Steampunk that reads like fantasy, Kenneth Oppel’s Airborn

Summary:

When an airship captain, a blind man, a girl child, and an adorable creature called Trill arrive at Firnis Eld to steal a corpse nothing seems amiss. The arrive in port via the airship Lamprey just in time of the big festival, the perfect distraction. They have tools, and they have a prophecy to guide them, they have a plan. That is until the find out that corpse isn’t dead. Perhaps things will go anything but according to plan.

The world in which Firnis Eld exists is full of steampunk universe, however that universe is not to my personal taste. While the technology is impressive, I found myself remembering all elements of the story except that technology. Each steampunk element or plot point always seems to be paired with (and often over shadowed by) a biological creation or cultural point that make a much bigger impact than the tech in the background. The cultural and biological pieces in Steel & Sky are creative and pleasantly complex, however that’s not what I look for when I read steampunk: I prefer science-fiction to science/fantasy.

 

Bottom Line:

While perhaps not my personal favorite item promoted on this website, it has inspired me to seek out Mr. Cummins’ other steampunk work, Chronicles of Aesirium, to see if those are written more to my taste. I do suggest this book for tween or HiLo teen readers who might find traditional steampunk in Victorian English too stuffy. It’s also a great suggestion to bring fantasy readers into the genre.

Links:

Read about it on Goodreads

Find it on Amazon

Also a huge THANK YOU to Mr. Cummins for gifting me a review copy of the book. I enjoyed it!

Have your own thoughts on the book? Share them in the comments bellow or via Twitter @Steamlib and @rencummins

F/NF Crossover Displays

Program Type: Display

Audience: Teens

Time Frame: Passive

Space Needed: Display board or wall space

Budget Considerations:

  • Paper materials for display
  • Staff time for creation
  • Staff time for book lists/book pulling

Description:

This is a display aimed at bridging the gap between fiction and non-fiction. Many Steampunk books are based on a historical reality, and then they alter and bend that reality to fit the author’s intentions. For many readers (myself included) part of the joy of steampunk is seeing the changes made and what stays true to history. For many teens, though, there may not be as much background understanding of the historical reality to fully appreciate the nuanced changes: this board is aimed at bridging that gap. Additionally, this board can be important for librarians working in communities with Common Core English classes where there is a high expectation for nonfiction reading by teens. By showing the connection between fiction and nonfiction librarians can tap into an expressed interest (steampunk or speculative fiction) and present nonfiction content in that same interest. Depending on the books pulled this can also be used for WWI and Civil War specific books.

Online Resources:

  • Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld paired with The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance that Changed the World by Greg King, Sue Woolmans
  • Boneshaker by Cherie Priest paired with Seattle Underground by William Speidel
  • Wild, Wild West (film) with A Lady’s Experiences in the Wild West in 1883 by Rose Render

Steampunk Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Author: Mary Shelley, Illustrations by Zdenko Bašić and Manuel Sumberac
Series: –

Age/Audience: Late teens

Genre/Style: Classic horror

Read If You Like: Frankenstein, Victorian Monsters, Classics

Summary:

The story – Victor Frankenstein is an up and coming scientist from a Geneva aristocratic family. After the death of his mother from scarlet fever, he is inspired to finish his studies so he can return to Geneva and marry his childhood sweetheart Elizabeth and complete his family once again. While at school Victor becomes obsessed with natural philosophy, and the notion that he could do the unthinkable, give life back to the dead. After months of study and midnight experiments he finally manages to create his masterpiece. But genius isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and soon things are far beyond Frankenstein’s control. As the death toll grows, is there anything that can be done to stop The Monster?

The Adaptation – I had a hard time deciding how I felt about this particular edition of Frankenstein. Given the heft of the book, and the obvious intention for it to be a steampunk adaptation through the inclusion of new illustration, not modification of the text I expected a lot more. Shelley’s original story is presented in half filled pages paired with too small illustrations too far in between. The kicker, though, is the illustrations are barely steampunk. They are filled with gears and goggles, but nothing functional and nothing in detail. I had very high hopes and this simply didn’t meet them. The cover, however, is fantastic to look at. If only the insides were as intriguing.

 

Bottom Line:

Not worth the weight. If you want a fantastically steampunk illustrated Frankenstein look into Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein.

Read More:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19978286-steampunk

Find It:

http://www.worldcat.org/title/steampunk-mary-shelleys-frankenstein/oclc/864545382

Lady Mechanika

Author: Joe Benitez
Series: Comic series, 3 volumes to date

Age/Audience: Teens and Adults equally

Genre/Style: Comic serial, mystery, supernatural

Read If You Like: Mechanics mixed with demonology, strong females, dark edgy comic styles

 

Summary:

The tabloids call her Lady Mechanika, but she doesn’t know what to call herself. Part female serial killer survivor, part mechanical-body-parts experiment Mechanika roams the streets of Victorian London hoping that solving unusual cases might give her insight to her previous life. When a mechanic-demon is found roaming the streets, Mechanika hopes he can answer her questions. But when weapons manufacturer Blackpool gets involved in the hunt, things get much more complicated, and Mechanika will have to do what she does best: kick some ass.

Bottom Line: An action filled comic with creative, pure Steampunk art hosted online with a great in-browser reader.

 

Read More: http://www.joebenitez.com/mechanika.htm

Find It: https://www.comixology.com/Lady-Mechanika-Vol-1/comics-series/4721 (PS Vol. 0 is FREE, the rest only $1.99 each)

Steampunk (2008 Anthology)

Author: Ann & Jeff Vandermeer, Editors
Series: Followed by Steampunk II

Age/Audience: Adults

Genre/Style: Varies by story

Read If You Like: Short stories, a lot of variety, light-steampunk, or introductions to authors

 

Summary:

This collection of stories is, eclectic, to say the least. Styles range from Western Mysteries, excerpts from larger adventure stories, short sci-fi, and some non-fiction essays. However, it’s blessing is also it’s curse. While the stories range offers a lot to readers who are wholly unfamiliar with the genre, tried and true steampunk fans may be frustrated at the lack of flying machines, automatons, altered costuming, and general “can do” spirit steampunk is known for. With the exception of a few stories, most pieces in the collection are very steampunk light, meaning they have very few steam elements, or those elements aren’t spot lighted in the story over all.

Bottom Line: While the stories are interesting and well written, with the exception of Lansdale’s piece that reads as if it was written by a prepubescent boy, they aren’t focused enough for me to recommend this as a preferred steampunk collection.

 

Read More, including a full author list: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2246092.Steampunk

Find It:

http://www.worldcat.org/title/steampunk/oclc/182733030&referer=brief_results

Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein

Author: Mary Shelley & Gris Grimly
Series: –

Age/Audience: Teens and Adults, 15+

Genre/Style: Graphic novel, horror

Read If You Like: Frankenstein, Victorian Monsters, supernatural with a little bit of horror, graphic novels

 

Summary:

The story – Victor Frankenstein is an up and coming scientist from a Geneva aristocratic family. After the death of his mother from scarlet fever, he is inspired to finish his studies so he can return to Geneva and marry his childhood sweetheart Elizabeth and complete his family once again. While at school Victor becomes obsessed with natural philosophy, and the notion that he could do the unthinkable, give life back to the dead. After months of study and midnight experiments he finally manages to create his masterpiece. But genius isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and soon things are far beyond Frankenstein’s control. As the death toll grows, is there anything that can be done to stop The Monster?

Gris Grimly’s Adaptation – This is one of the purest adaptations I have ever seen. Instead of altering Mary Shelley’s original text, Grimly streamlines it. By pairing Shelley’s scenes with his own Steampunk/Gothic cross over style makes the text accessible to a whole new audience. Readers aren’t confronted with huge blocks of early Victorian language, instead they see bright red script letters, comic-style block image dialog, and a touching rendition of the Creature’s story – a piece of the novel often excluded in adaptations. Five stars, highly recommended for Frankenstein lovers, comic lovers, Steampunk fans, or anyone who will appreciate Shelley’s classic text with streamlined approachability.

 

Bottom Line: Five stars, a beautiful book filled with the original text that made Frankenstein a cultural staple.

Read More:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17331402-gris-grimly-s-frankenstein

Find It:

http://www.worldcat.org/title/gris-grimlys-frankenstein-or-the-modern-prometheus/oclc/697974171&referer=brief_results

Leviathan

Author: Scott Westerfeld
Series: First of a trilogy (Leviathan, Behemoth, Goliath)

Age/Audience: YA – 7- 10th grade

Genre/Style: Alternate history

Read If You Like: WWI history, genetics, adventure/war stories, European history, women in science/engineering

Summary:

In this alternate WWI Europe, the map is split between two groups. On one side is the Darwinist English who use modified animals as war machines, airships, and communication devices. On the other, the German Clankers whose iron machine based culture puts them at fundamental odds with the British: and both sides are itching for war. Caught in the middle is the young illegitimate Alek, son of Archduke Ferdinand. With his parents’ assassination Alek’s life is in danger, and with the help of trusted servants and a Stormwalker gun machine he hopes to survive the declaration of war by racing across Germany to neutral Switzerland.

Meanwhile Deryn can’t wait to join the battle. Disguising herself as a boy “Dylan” enlists in the British Airforce and joins the crew of Leviathan, a modified whale turned airship. Onboard Leviathan is Dr Nora Darwin Barlow, a scientist who promises British victory with her new secret weapon – but what is it?

As Europe is plunged into what would prove to be its bloodiest conflict what can be done to stop it? After Leviathan crash lands next to Alek’s Swiss safe-house, it seems the two cultures have more to learn from each other than they would ever admit, and it may be the key to saving not only their own lives, but all of Europe.

 

Bottom Line: Great read to create a bridge between fiction and non-fiction, really well paced, complex female characters (in the sciences and the military to boot!).

More Reviews:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6050678-leviathan

Find It: https://www.worldcat.org/title/leviathan/oclc/290477162&referer=brief_results

Soulless

Author: Gail Carriger
Series: Parasol Protectorate (Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, Timeless)

Age/Audience: Adult/Teen, 10th grade +

Genre/Style: supernatural, mystery

Read If You Like: Vampires, werewolves, mystery, Oscar Wilde/wit

Bottom Line: Written in a quasi-Victorian style the wit, emphasis on historically accurate costume, and magical-realism make this story feel equally antique and modern. The sassy attitudes and sexual details make it a late teen crowd pleaser.

Summary: