Step inside the laboratory… Alternate realities where science and technology come alive has been the trademark of the genre known as steampunk. Tales of mechanical creatures and skies filled with airships sweep you up and take the reader to worlds that are just a bit different from our own…yet, somehow they seem strangely familiar. Steampunk is more than clockwork creatures and mad scientists. It is an elegant tale told with a deft touch by some of the most creative minds in fiction. Suspend your boundaries of belief and enter: A Clockwork Orchard.
With A Clockwork Orchard, I expected a pleasant little collection of steampunk stories. What I got, though, was a set of absolutely amazing tales exploring yet unseen crannies of the steampunk universe, each more entertaining and more mind-bogglingly imaginative than the other.
Now, I have a story in the collection, so at first I didn’t want to write a review at all. However, the entire book surpassed my expectations so extremely that I feel an almost palpable urge to pile praise onto my fellow authors and tell everyone how I loved their work and how proud I am to be able to share the pages of a book with them. So there. Let’s assume, for a moment, that my story is not included and that I am free to comment.
I love a good twist in a story. A turn of fate, which, once revealed, can be tracked in little doses all the way back to the beginning. A twist which makes sense and casts the events of the story into a new light. For all that and more – Skymanned City is here for all your needs.
For a light-hearted account of a secret event, which starts out in a narrative often associated with steampunk literature and then takes a totally unexpected path which had me laughing out loud for the last few pages, go for Never Mind the Nonsense, Here’s the Sex Truncheons.
Several other stories held my attention thanks to the gentle, human way they played out their characters – be it an investigator nearing unwanted retirement (Running Out of Steam), a talented inventor facing mishap after mishap (A Clockwork Orang(utan)), or an officer who had devoted his life to the army, and was now being sent on an extraordinary mission (The Assassin’s Assassin). Even if the gentle manner sometimes later turned nasty.
Il Risorgimento wins hands-down for a truly revolutionary setting. Also, a setting either very well known by the author, or extremely well researched.
Sheriff Holt and the Purple Stagecoach Mystery, which I was quite sure was going to be my favorite story of all, brings a touch of the good ole’ western to the collection, and as for the final story, Feast of Souls, that is one true New Weird tale (no, seriously, there’s everything. Fantasy, sci-fi, horror, steampunk – you name it).
However, my absolute favorite of them all was Ragtime Ascension. This story has a life of its own, balancing between sheer madness and the courage to leave things unsaid. It is written in a poetic language brimming with dark imagination, and is generally very polished and refined. Most importantly, though, it changed something within me, left a lasting impact… which is something I cannot say about many things I read.
It will definitely not work for every reader. So even if it’s my favorite, I still would recommend the potential reader to try all of the stories.
The main reason I stick to four stars in the end are some little cosmetic details – I did not get along with the pacing in some stories, and I am not a big fan of military settings. I would also love to have little bios of the authors or something, either after each story, or at the end.