Best Steampunk

This list was compiled with two criteria, based on my full list of steampunk books. Most are "Very High" or "High" according to my "steampunk factor" assessment, which simply means that these books have all three of the qualities I've identified in steampunk books, film, art, and fashion: technofantasy, neo-Victorianism, and retrofuturism. Effectively though, these are all my faves from my reading in the last five years.
  1. Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
  2. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld 
  3. Dreadnought by Cherie Priest
  4. Soulless by Gail Carriger
  5. Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
  6. The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman
  7. The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives by James P. Blaylock
  8. Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
  9. Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist
  10. Boilerplate by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett
Other Top Ten Lists:

Top Five Classic Steampunk (1971-1999):
  1. Homunculus by James Blaylock
  2. Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
  3. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
  4. Lord Kelvin's Machine by James Blaylock
  5. The List of 7 by Mark Frost
Top Ten New Steampunk (2000-2009)
  1. Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
  2. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
  3. Soulless by Gail Carriger
  4. Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
  5. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist
  6. Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
  7. Fitzpatrick's War by Theodore Judson
  8. Boilerplate by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett
  9. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
  10. Whitechapel Gods by S.M. Peters
Top Five YA Steampunk 
  1. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld 
  2. Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
  3. The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith
  4. The Empire of Ruins by Arthur Slade
  5. Larklight by Philip Reeve
Top Five Steampunk Comics/Graphic Novels
  1. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, (volumes I & II) by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
  2. Doctor Grordbort's Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory by Greg Broadmore
  3. Gotham by Gaslight by Brian Augustyn and Michael Mignola
  4. Steampunk (Manimatron and Drama Obscura) by Chris Bachalo and  Joe Kelly
  5. Clockwork Angels by Lea Hernandez
Best Steampunk Films
  1. The Prestige
  2. The Mysterious Geographic Expeditions of Jasper Morello
  3. Steamboy
  4. Howl's Moving Castle
  5. The Amazing Screw-On Head
 Best Steampunk of 2010 (the first year you could really do such a list!)
  1. The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
  2. Dreadnought by Cherie Priest
  3. The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman
  4. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
  5. Blameless by Gail Carriger 
Best Steampunk of 2011
  1. Steampunk! Edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
  2. Heartless by Gail Carriger
  3. Curious Case of the Clockwork Man by Mark Hodder
  4. Goliath by Scott Westerfeld 
  5. The Empire of Ruin by Arthur Slade
Best Steampunk of 2012
  1. Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff/Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon by Mark Hodder
  2. Timeless by Gail Carriger
  3. The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman
  4. Railsea by China Mieville  
  5. The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress
Best Steampunk of 2013
  1. Nemo: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
  2. Luminous Chaos by Jean-Christophe Valtat
  3. Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff
  4. The Aylesford Skull by James Blaylock
  5. The Secret of Abdu El-Yezdi by Mark Hodder
Best Steampunk of 2014
  1. Return of the Discontinued Man by Mark Hodder
  2. Modo: Ember's End by Arthur Slade and Christopher Steininger

  3.  
Best Steampunk of 2015
  1. The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher
  2. Rise of the Automated Aristocrats by Mark Hodder
  3.  The Circlet Press Steampunk Bundle: Four Full-Length Novels & an Anthology by Vinnie Tesla, Petter Tupper, et al. 
  4. The Art of Assassin's Creed Syndicate 
  5. Lady Mechanika Volume 1: The Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse by Joe Benitez

Best Steampunk of 2016
  1. Everfair by Nisi Shawl (novel)
  2. Monstress Volume 1 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (comic book)
  3. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (anime series) 
  4. The Empire of Corpses (anime feature film)

 

16 comments:

  1. What I mis, and not only in the TOP list but anywhere is this blog is the work of the Belgian-Frnech duo Schuiten - Peeters, and especially their "Les Cités obscures
    " (french original title). They are extremely popular as 7th art even in Flanders where the series is called Duistere steden. The Wikipedia english entry is under the french title. Please have a serious look because this will add a full new feature in your excellent blog.

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  2. Great suggestion, Midrac. I'm also glad to see "Les Cités obscures" has an English edition by NBM Publishing. I'm a bad Canadian - my French isn't that good. Will definitely check it out later this year. My dance card is currently full!

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  3. You may want to take a gander at "His Black Wings" by Astrid Yrigollen. It is a brillant steampunk version of Beauty and the Beast.

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  4. This website has become a great resource for me. Thanks so much for making it!

    There are two steampunk comics you should definitely check out if you haven't yet.

    One is a graphic novella by Warren Ellis and Gianluca Pagliarani called "Aetheric Mechanics."

    The other is a webcomic by Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett called "Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether." http://www.ineffableaether.com/

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  5. I was unaware of Aetheric Mechanics, but have seen Lady Sabre before. Thanks for the recommendations, and I'm glad the site is a resource - that's what it was intended for!

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    1. One more I forgot about!

      A little-known gem by Kazu Kibuishi called Daisy Kutter: The Last Train. It's more on the "weird west" side of things - train robberies and robots. Pure fun.

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    2. JC, I've been aware of Daisy Kutter for years, but could never locate a copy! I need to renew my search.

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  6. A second advice from Europe: Hauteville House. Pure steampunk in comic form. It's named after the house in which Victor Hugo resided when he was living on Jersey. So, when googling, don't be afraid that this reference will come up.
    A must read/have for any steampunk fan.

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  7. I discovered your site while Googling for an audiobook of "Retribution Falls" and I am very glad I did. I found your essay about Steampunk as genre / aesthetic both interesting and convincing. I also loved what you had to say about Chris Wooding's novel. (Have you read the whole Ketty Jay series?). I was also pleased to see that "Lost Perdido Street Station" gets a guernsey in your Best lists. IMHO, Mieville is the best and most underrated Steampunk author - mainly because he barely gets recognised as such. His "Un Lun Dun" should definitely be in your Top Five YA Steampunk list. Speaking of which, have you read any of Ian McDonald's books? I discovered "Planesrunner" last year and told my school's library to buy the whole trilogy. Its technofantasy of mapping alternate universes and jumping between them in airships is cool enough, but the imaginative play with alternate Earths is equaled by McDonald's use of a young Sikh geek as hero with a mixed-race orphaned female who, while getting the Hermione Grainger role, brilliantly remakes a working class girl as Lara Croft meets Buffy. Lastly, I'm a little surprised that "Morlock Nights" doesn't make it on your Classic Steampunk list, and would suggest you look at the graphic novel series "Grandville" by Bryan Talbot. I'm not sure about its technofantasy and retrofuturism, but simply as an ingenious riff on the work of 19th C caricaturist J. J. Grandville, it does Neo-Victorian in spades.

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  8. Jon, I haven't read Ian McDonald, and I have yet to hit Mieville's other works. These lists are always a work-in-progress as I read new works that oust others. As for Morlock Nights, I simply don't think it's all that good. It's fun, but not up to the same level of quality I find in my chosen works. I've been meaning to read Grandville for ages, but never seem to find the time. I still have stacks of unread steampunk books!

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  9. Have you not read The Wake of the Dragon by Jaq D. Hawkins? I believe it's 2013, one of the better ones. You can't beat airship pirates and mechanoids!

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  10. Hello Mike. I followed your blog about 4-5 years ago and am extremely happy that you're still up and running. Got some great tips from you for reading back then, and am now finding some more from you.

    I have a suggestion for you:
    You should have a "true" Classics section in here as well, which would include books that predate the actual Steampunk genre but which most consider to be Steampunk and/or the true origins of Steampunk. Works including 20,000 Leagues and The Time Machine. Honestly, I've never read the latter, but I did read the former about a year ago (found what reviews on Amazon said was the most true-to-the-original version and bought that one) and it was a fantastic story. I think books ... **classics** ... like these deserve their own section in your Top X Lists.

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    1. What a great idea, Warren! I don't know if a "best" list would work in that respect, since some people might disagree with my estimation of which classics steampunk draws from most often. I'll admit, I don't really buy the idea that steampunk draws from those classics, but rather the trickle-down perception we have of them through cinematic and televised adaptations of them. For example, few have read Verne, but many steampunks cite the Disney 20,000 Leagues as a beloved inspiration for steampunk. Nevertheless, I'll put a list together, because I like the idea!

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  11. I like the idea behind Steampunk, but I loathed Cherie Priest's Clockwork books. Seeing Dreadnought on your top ten list makes me think that there might not be much hope for me and the genre. What I need is a category of hard steam punk (like hard science fiction) in which the mechanics of the technology is taken seriously. Alternatively (or in addition), I'd like something that carefully weighed the alternate history implications of the changes introduced. I need something more focused on substance and less on ambience. Any suggestions?

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  12. Croetoan, I understand your frustration. When I first started reading steampunk, I expected to see some serious counterfactual ruminations. What we get is more counterfictional than counterfactual. That doesn't bother me, since I've adjusted my expectations accordingly. I've said elsewhere that hard steampunk is hard to find, but you might enjoy J. Daniel Sawyer's "Cold Duty" (short story, but can be found in one of his collections), of course Gibson and Sterling's The Difference Engine, and for my money, Mark Hodder's series might prove satisfying. You could help me make recommendations by giving me a few alt-history books you really liked. S.M. Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers might be to your liking as well.

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