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Check It Out: Steamed for bustles, bronze and goggles

September 11, 2010|By Allen Kesinger

Within the last decade, the concept of steampunk has begun to break away from being a niche subgenre and entered the mainstream. What is steampunk? Steampunk is blends reality and science fiction, presenting an alternate Victorian-era England or the Wild West where fantastical steam-powered machines, vehicles and inventions are everyday sights. This style makes for stark imagery, as Victorian architecture and dress are combined with bronze gears, brass goggles, valves and steam pipes in all shapes and sizes. Grab your kerosene lamp; it's time to read some steampunk!

"Boneshaker" by Cherie Priest: When an excavator accidentally unleashes a deadly gas under Seattle, the population flees in terror before the gas turns them into zombies. Years after the accident, Seattle has been blocked off and the survivors eke out an existence outside the city walls. Briar Wilkes, wife of Leviticus Blue (who built the excavator) struggles to live under the shadow of the Blight, raising a son who believes that there is more to his father than most people believe. When he makes his way into the ruined, zombie-filled city, Briar has no choice but to follow. Fun fact: Boneshaker was the nickname for a bicycle in 1869.

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"Leviathan" by Scott Westerfeld: It's World War I, but with a twist. The Austro-Hungarian Empire (referred to as Clankers because of their dependency on steam-powered, steel war machines) is searching for Prince Aleksander in order to revoke his claim to the throne after the death of his parents, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Princess Sophie Chotek. The British Empire (called Darwinists for their use of organics) is about to take the Leviathan, a massive, organic airship, on her maiden voyage. Deryn Sharp, a commoner with a love of flight, has entered the service and has a knack for airmanship. However, Deryn lives in constant fear of a secret being revealed: Deryn is a teenage girl disguised as a boy because the British Air Service does not recruit women.

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