Steampunk Scholar's Reads of the Year

New Year approacheth, and it's the time of year for "best-of" lists! did one of these, but the criteria for nominating texts reminded me too much of discussions where I'm told "you can't limit steampunk," so rather than be a troll, I just decided I'd do my own list. My criteria are a lot more restrictive. To be considered steampunk at my blog, the book must have been written from the late 20th century (1970 and on) up until now. More to the point, as books of the year, the release date is crucial: the original release date (frankly, if you're going to include any book from any period, you're doing an ALL TIME GREATEST list, not a "book of the year"). Re-releases don't count, or I'd be including Joe Lansdale's Flaming Zeppelins. And of course, I'm working with my definition of the steampunk aesthetic: books that combine a neo-Victorian retrofuturist feel with technofantasy.

Here are my choices, in exactly the order you see them. I went with five for the same reasons I made my choices more restricted than If you open things up too wide, you render the words "best" or "of the year" meaningless.
  1. Dreadnought by Cherie Priest - This became my go-to gift book of the year. Better than the first in the series, in my opinion. Trains + Texas Rangers + zombies + great characters, great writing.
  2. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld - In most cases, saying "more of the same" is a bad thing. Given how kick-ass Leviathan was, it's a compliment here.
  3. The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman - Guns with demons in them! Locomotive Engines with demons in them! People with personal demons! Demons, demons, everywhere! And gunplay to boot. Loved the whole thing, and am looking forward to impending sequels.
  4. Changeless by Gail Carriger - Many people have told me Blameless is better, but I can't say - my wife became a fan this year, and we read the series together. And by read, I mean I read, she listens, and drifts into sleep. At which point I have to put the book down, and read something else, or suffer her wrath for skipping ahead. I'm loving this series, and think it deserves all the praise and hype it's getting.
  5. Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding - Yes, it's Firefly even more steampunked. How is that a bad thing? This is well-written, fast-paced, high-adventure. Abney Park sparked the idea of sky pirates, but no one has written them so well as Wooding.
There you go! Until next year...


    1. I agree with all the selections here, except for The Half-Made World, because the lack of closure at the end made me throw the book across the room.

      Thanks for giving a nod to Chris Wooding too; I just read Retribution Falls & the follow-up Black Lung Captain back-to-back, and Wooding has a very strong balance of developing a character ensemble but still keeping an action-packed plot: strengths that I haven't seen in a long time.


    2. Abney Park parked the idea of sky pirates? I b'lieve they were around far before that...

    3. True enough Marena. I was looking for a commonly known example. Maybe I should have said "popularised." I'm thinking of Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell's "The Edge Chronicles" as an earlier iteration - anyone want to go for earlier than 1998's "Beyond the Deepwoods"?

    4. Jess Nevins has informed me that there are sky pirates "back in the 1880s, in dime novels." Clearly a research post is in the offing...

    5. Or, better yet, just go check out Mr. Nevin's excellent article on Captain Mors, an early Deutsch Luft Pirat!


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