Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bad Punk, good Punk and Africa

The Miracle at Speedy Motors: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith

Africa first:

Finally read the latest No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency book. Good as always, and as always not really a detective or mystery story, just a pleasant visit with Mma Ramotswe and company. Always charming.

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Bad Punk:

Steampunk by Ann Vandermeer (Editor), Jeff Vandermeer (Editor)

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I REALLY wanted to like this book.. but just couldn't. At least I possessed the liberating knowledge that "you don't HAVE to finish a short story if you don't want to," so I could dispense with this more quickly.

I don't know why this struck me as uninteresting - it didn't seem to capture the can-do fun spirit I see in the many steampunk postings on the MAKE blog and elsewhere.

My favorite story - the only one I really liked - was a pastiche based on From The Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon - one person describes it:
The Selene Gardening Society (Molly Brown) - This one is based on Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon, it's a cute story even without the background knowledge. In an attempt to distract her husband from tearing up her garden, a society wife begins planning a garden on the moon.
I like anthologies - but think they're better when NOT purpose-driven. I do think I want to look up this one again though - I had it out once, but never really started reading it: The Mammoth Book of New Jules Verne Adventures

and.. GOOD Punk!

Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

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Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.

Now, I know this wasn't fiction, and it isn't per se "steampunk"... but still, it gave me everything the Steampunk anthology lacked. It is a celebration of the wonders of technology, and a dream of a fair that presented all kinds of fabulous technology to the world. Mixed in with the dark story of a dedicated serial killer who haunted the fair and preyed on those who came to it. It's the sort of story a good steampunk could use in a Verne-esque turn..