I had never even heard of steampunk before I got a job at a Victorian Fair one summer. The woman leading the orientation asked us for examples of “Victorian-themed” movies that we could use for inspiration. Someone suggested a Sherlock Holmes movie and she said, “No, that’s more steampunk.” My mind snapped to attention and I asked, “What’s steampunki?” That opened a new world for me, one that already contained some of my favorite things – pocket watches and corsets. I knew I had to get my hands on steampunk literature.
Many people have defined steampunk as a world where governments turned to steam power, rather than petroleum. The stories that emerge from this idea usually take place in Victorian England, but I often prefer those who take steampunk to new planes, such as fantasy lands or early America. If you are interested in knowing the more nitty-gritty of “steampunk,” this page is a great resource.
Some people I have spoken with are die-hard Victorian Steampunk fans. It is Victorian England or nothing for them. That mindset is fine by me, but I truly enjoy a more eclectic palate. Some of the books I’m going to mention do involve Victorian England, but not all. Be warned!
Five Books for the Steampunk Lover
Edited by: Trisha Telep
This book came up first when, all those years ago, I searched for steampunk novels. I was delighted to discover one of my favorite authors, Maria V. Snyder, had contributed a story to it. This anthology contains thirteen short stories by different, established authors. Of those authors, I only knew of Maria beforehand, but judging by the writing styles, the thought the others would be worth checking out as well. I found the short stories perfect for reading during my lunch breaks, as they were quick and entertaining. This anthology also inspired me to compile my own collection of steampunk short stories – GEARS OF BRASS, which is available via Curiosity Quills Press.
Edited By: Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link
I was intrigued to find other steampunk anthologies and STEAMPUNK! is now my favorite (after GEARS OF BRASS, of course). These stories truly embrace that backbone of the steampunk genre. For anyone looking for an introduction to steampunk, this is the book for you. What I love about anthologies is the chance to find a new favorite author, as they provide such a delectable sampling, and this one did not disappoint. There were also stories by some authors I already knew, so it was fun reading something new by them.
By: Scott Westerfield
Illustrated By: Keith Thompson
This book was all around fun to read. Not only did it contain steampunk elements, but those elements were accompanied by artwork – I’m a sucker for illustrations. LEVIATHAN takes place in an alternate history surrounding World War I. Another great aspect is that this is only book one in the series, so you can make your love of the characters a dirty pleasure. I have encouraged many of my friends to read LEVIATHAN and not one has disliked it yet.
By: Cherie Priest
I discovered this book in my local Barnes & Noble, the only bookstore in my area for miles! There was a special “steampuk” section – yes, I swooned – so I snatched up a copy of BONESHAKER. (Sadly, there were only a few books in this section. Hopefully my steampunk novels will be added someday.) This one in particular is also an alternate history, this time regarding the Civil War. There are chilling family secrets; I couldn’t stop reading, which was bad because I started it at work during lunch. I didn’t get a strong sense of steampunk, but aspects of it were in there, and the novel is also part of an addictive series. I just love it when I stumble upon a treasure trove of characters that I can keep revisiting for many books to come.
By: Phillip Pullman
I remember friends reading THE GOLDEN COMPASS back in high school, but for some reason I never got around to it. Once I became obsessed with steampunk, I decided to dive into it. I can see why so many people love it. The characters are engaging, but more than that, you feel a part of the world. This is a great example of a steampunk novel in a fantasy setting.
What are your favorite steampunk books? Leave a comment or tweet us using the hashtag #5OnFri
Jordan Elizabeth graduated from SUNY Oneonta with a degree in elementary education, which meant she studied a lot of children’s literature. Her real love focuses more on young adult than middle grade, and she is the author of ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, a young adult fantasy. Her other works include the steampunk series Treasure Chronicles – the first installment, TREASURE DARKLY, was released February 16, 2015 – and the anthology GEARS OF BRASS. Her novels are available from Curiosity Quills Press and she is represented by the Belcastro Agency. Learn more about Jordan at JordanElizabethMierek.com.