Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Favorite Steampunk

In honor of this week's steampunk theme, Cassy and I will tell you a little bit about our favorite steampunk books.

Mine could possibly be called not steampunk. But it has the right feel, it's set in the right time period, and it discusses automatons. And besides, it's the only one I'm really familiar with besides the one Cassy is writing about.

It's The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. It won a Caldecott Award (along with several other awards) and has been a really big hit with kids (of all ages) since it was published in 2007.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret.jpg

Given that information and that photo, you should be confused. First, thick books like that tend to intimidate most kids. But the truth is, quite a large portion of that is illustrations. Which leads to the other reason you should be confused: Caldecott Awards are for picture books. This was the first novel to win one.

The story deals with a pre-teen orphan named (surprise, surprise) Hugo Cabret who lives in a train station and spends his time fixing automatons when he isn't bsuy keeping the station's clocks running. It also deals heavily with Georges Méliès but I'd rather make you read the book to find out more about that.

I read this in 2009 or 2010 for a youth materials and services class, and really enjoyed it. I don't remember there being anything groundbreaking in our class discussion about it, just a general approval and belief that it would be popular with many different types of patrons, including the entire range from young to old, and in particular, reluctant readers.

I had not seen the film (Hugo) until very recently. It was... okay. I was excited to learn - before seeing it - that Christopher Lee, Jude Law, and Sacha Baron Cohen were all in it. Then I realized who Chloe Grace Moretz is (you may remember her from here?) and was excited about her being in it, too. But... it sort of fell flat. It was pretty, not beautiful. It was a nice way to spend time, but I probably wouldn't watch it over and over. If you enjoyed the movie, give the book a chance... it'll probably take as much time as watching the movie again (or less) and you might like it even better.

My favorite steampunk novel is actually also a favorite of Alex's too.  I'm with Alex in that I haven't read a lot of steampunk (other than the book I'm going to tell you, I only have Hugo and Boneshaker on my list), but it's definitely something I would love to pick up more of.

Leviathan Series by Scott Westerfeld has to be my favorite steampunk novel. (Really, are you surprised?  You shouldn't be.)

Honestly, I think I love this series so much because Westerfeld takes such a unique approach to it (as is usually the case with him.)  It's set during WWI, and the Allied powers are Darwinists.  All of their flying machines and other technological advances are made of animals that have been genetically engineered to do things like fly.  So Deryn (our main character) actually works on an airship that's a huge whale.  They have hydrogen that is naturally produced and they even get things like food from their airship.  All these animals are called "beasties".

The Axis powers are the exact opposite and called Clankers.  All of their weaponry is machine based.  So they have huge machines, one of which is called a Stormwalker, that can roam the country side and shoot people.  It's great.

Westerfeld takes the story of two young kids (one a prince and a girl masquerading as a boy), and intertwines them in this amazing story of beasties and wars and stormwalkers.

The other amazing thing about this book?  The illustrations.  There are black and white illustrations all throughout the book that do nothing but enhance your reading experience.  Steampunk is highly visual and I think that Westerfeld really made the right choice in including illustrations in his novel.

This is a stormwalker.  Isn't it neat?            These are beasties.  Leviathan is on the right.

It's a great book with great characters and a great steampunk aesthetic.  Even better?  The series comes with The Manual of Aeronautics, which just has more fun pictures, details and crazy fun descriptions  like the details of the people's uniforms or the inside of the beasties.


  1. Hugo Cabret is an amazing book. My whole family is really into it. The thing I like best about it is that the older gentleman in the story is a real person. I really liked the book "Clockwork Angel" by Cassandra Clare, until I found out from Cassy that she plagiarized the title and pretty much the whole plot. Anyway, I've always thought of the show Firefly as steampunk-ish, even though its not really about Victorian times. Also, I actually love those pictures of that wedding you linked to. :)

    1. Haha, well, I don't think she plagiarized the TITLE, but yeah, Cassandra Clare did some major plagiarism when she was a Fan Fiction writer and then copied most of that into her book.

      Ok, that's not TOTALLY fair. The Infernal Devices series might not be plagiarized, but her Mortal Instruments series is a barely hidden HP knock off and I just can't really support any plagiarism.

      Isn't that wedding fabulous? That whole site is fabulous. I LOVE off-beat bride. :)