Friday, September 23, 2016

“The Aeronaut’s Windlass,” Jim Butcher

FM's ratings:

          1. Premise 9
          2. Prose 8
          3. Plot 9
          4. Characters 10
          5. Overall 9

Comments (optional - but try to keep it under 3000 words!)
I had just finished reading one of Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels, and was looking for another when I came across this book, his latest, and saw that it was his first Steampunk novel.  Perfect!  One of the jacket blurbs shouted, “Steampunk done very, very right.”  Well, very, very wrong.  While this is a brilliantly executed Fantasy/Sci-Fi novel, it takes more than simply including airships and old-timey clothing in the setting to make a Steampunk novel.  The trappings of the Victorian era are a must, as I see it.  I have noticed a number of Steampunk attempts that have included electricity in the culture, including this one.  Maybe I’m being a Purist in the most derogatory sense of the word, but I feel that “In world lit only by fire,” a line from “Clockwork Angels,” by Neil Peart and Kevin Anderson (and appearing as the first line of the first song on Rush’s album by the same name) is a basic of the genre – no electricity.  Yes, in many ways Steampunk is still developing, the dust still settling on its precise definition.  But this isn’t it.  What it is, though, is a thoroughly original setting (“10” for setting), an intricate but followable and engaging plot, and a cast of beautifully realized characters, including intelligent cats who have developed a language that humans can learn, though not many have managed to.  The Etherealists are a fascinating invention that, by itself, makes this novel worthy of its length (630 pages).  And the captain of Predator - the airship most featured in this novel - Captain Grimm, is unforgettable (especially if you imagine a youngish Sean Connery in the roll like I did!).  If you’re looking for Steampunk, look elsewhere.  But for a really great escapist fantasy, you can’t go wrong with this one!  [Addendum:  Since writing this, I have noticed that this book was one of the five nominees for novel of the year at the Hugo Awards, with the winner being "The Fifth Season," by N. K. Jemisin.]

Here’s the October line-up! 
Happy Halloween!

“Pet Sematary,” by Stephen King [10-1]

“The Body in the Library” by Agatha Christie [10-8]
“Dead Reckoning,” by Charlaine Harris [10-15]
“Neverwhere,” by Neil Gaiman [10-22]
“The Haunting of Hill House,” by Shirley Jackson [10-29] 

(As always, if there are any books you’d like to recommend for next month, please do so.  Also, if you have already read one on our previous lists, you are invited to send your ratings and or comments for that book!)