Today we will be diving straight into the ever growing eclectic and enticing genre of Steampunk literature. So grab your finest reading monocle and get ready to discover your new favorite Steampunk book.
Mini Steampunk Overview
In case you are unfamiliar with Steampunk – here are the basics. You can read a more in-depth history of Steampunk here in this blog post.
Steampunk is a retro-futuristic style of art, clothing, and as we are talking about today, literature. The style includes Victorian, fantasy, the Industrial Revolution, and often a futuristic Wild Wild West.
You know how Star Wars is kind of like, the Cowboy and Indian days of the future on a planet with super-technology? Ok. Now, hold on to that thought and imagine our own history re-imagined with super-technology involved.
Pretty cool, right?
The Steampunk Book Genre
The genre is active and rapidly growing. A quick search on Amazon Kindle available titles launches over 700 titles in the Steampunk genre. That’s a pretty pennies worth of metal gears and top hats. If you are looking to check out some passionate, period-set adventure stories; start with Kindle eBooks.
One reason, if you have Prime subscription most of the books are free. Another, most of these self-published books can be snatched up for $3.00 and under. Since the most authentic steamers would probably prefer a leather bound hand-written novel – they might protest. However, an electronic reading device is kind of amazing in itself and the other half of the authentic steam community should appreciate this. Touché.
Must Read List Featuring Amazing Steam Heroines
Here’s a list of reading material to scratch your steaming itch for a good read.
- The Girl in the Steel Corset
Come on now, you know I was going to love this one! The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross (Kathryn Smiths pseudonym) is the first book in a YA series The Steampunk Chronicles.
Don’t let the YA label be a turn-off. After all, Harry Potter is technically a children’s book. YA brought us Twilight, The Hunger Games, and by way of proxy, 50 Shades of Gray.
In Cross’s story, Finely Jayne the lead protagonist is a certified badass. She’s totally empowered, not afraid to fight the bad guys, and brilliant to boot.
Make sure you buy the copy with the prequel novella introducing you to Finely so you don’t miss a thing.
Cherie Priest brings alive Briar Wilkes in the adventure loving novel, Boneshaker. Part of The Clockwork Century series, Boneshaker is full of; mysteries, airship, Steampunk elements…oh, and zombies.
Yes! I said, zombies. Cherie, how could you know to hit every sweet spot in one short book? Briar wandering through a post-apocalyptic Seattle in the 1800’s will leave you delighted and sometimes terrified. But, in a really good way. I promise.
- The Clockwork Scarab: A Stoker & Holmes Novel
By now you may have noticed, the word, “Clockwork” is popular in Steam Lit. Don’t let that dissuade you from trying out Colleen Gleason’s heck of a ride-read.
Ok - are you ready for the juicy details? Get this. The sister of Bram Stroker, Evaline, and the niece of Sherlock Holmes, Mina, team up. To solve mysteries…and hunt vampires.
I cannot tell you how much I loved this book. It’s steam. It’s Victorian. It’s 1889 in London and it’s fabulous. You will thank me, for this one.
Honorable Steam Mentions
Mary Shelley wasn’t messing around when it came to churning out a seriously, scary story. That woman was like, “Oh, you want nightmares? I got you. “
While Frankenstein might not immediately strike you as a Steampunk book let’s examine the facts: the book is science fiction and by default, it takes place in Victorian times. Sounds steamy to me.
Leviathan (The Leviathan Trilogy)
Leviathan is one of the most beloved books in the steam genre. History buffs will get a kick out of Scott Westerfeld’s reimagining of World War I in an alternate historically universe. There’s a bit of actual history, such as the basics of how WWI actually started. Strong female character-lovers will delight in the character of Deryn. 15 years old and impersonating a boy (Dylan) to sneak her way up on to the British Air Service war machine, aptly named, the Leviathan.
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has the distinction of making our list yet not being a “book” This comic book series is written by Alan Moore and drawn in painfully intricate detail, by Kevin O’Neill.
This story is told over 12 comics split into 2 series, a graphic novel, and a spin-off trilogy. The series uniquely incorporates many other works of fiction within the world of “League”.
League is set in Victorian England, with characters such as Captain Nemo, Fu Manchu, Dr. Jekyll, The Invisible Man and Sherlock Holmes arch nemesis. They encounter the events of Wells’s, The War of the Worlds, and Nineteen Eighty Four, among other popular steam genre references.
The Golden Compass
The Golden Compass has been described as a children’s book that can only be appreciated by the adult reader. Philpp Pulman’s masterpiece is considered to be a modern fantasy classic, and a favorite Steampunk book.
The story features in no particular order: magic, science, theology, fantasy, and a polar bear that wears metal armor. That’s one serious punk polar bear.
Fascinating Books with Fascinating Authors
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Again, here we have a case of steam genre-by-default. This classic horror story is set in England which by now you may have you noticed, Steampunk and old-time England go together like peanut butter and jelly.
For me, I think an interesting tidbit about Jekyll and Hyde is the author, Robert Louis Stevenson. Here we have a man who writes the loveable classic Treasure Island, goes on to create A Child’s Garden of Verses. I’m pretty sure everyone reading this now had to copy his Daffodils poem onto construction paper in 3rd grade, or at some point of elementary school.
Then, after he writes a bunch of sweet children’s poems, what’s his next big move? A creep-tastic journey into the human psyche. Alright, Robert, whatever float’s your Steampunk boat.
The Time Machine
H.G. Wells. What is there to say about this guy? Can you even imagine what it must have been like to hang out with him? Not only did he give us The Time Machine – uber Steampunk, time traveling/ dark, futuristic masterpiece, but also like, a bunch of other crazy good pieces of writing. The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, The Island of Doctor Moreau…really?
Herbert George certainly had a penchant for crafting an enchanting tale. In The Time Machine, a classic English dinner party introduces a group of proper gentlemen to the idea of “the fourth dimension”. I don’t think I’m giving anything away here by letting you know there will be some traveling in time by the books end.
This book is sci-fi tested, steam lover approved. As a plus, you get to tell people you’re currently reading some H.G. Wells at your next cocktail party.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Are you ready to kick it old school, as in 1869 school? That was the date this classic was first published and it’s been a favorite among the super science fiction loving crowd ever since. Jules Verne’s is hailed as a visionary for predicting futuristic technologies, such as a suit that would allow you to dive undersea and not drown, an electric motor, and major warships.
The book is articulate, science heavy, and written in true Victorian fashion.
Whew! What a post. Did you find your next Kindle read? Don't forget, most of these books especially the classics are available as an audio book. Go ahead - indulge yourself in the world of googles, dark/ dreary London, and the future-past for your next read.
If you find something you love - or I mentioned your favorite, please let me know in the comments. As always, if one of the corsets featured here strike your fancy we are available to answer any questions or help with sizing by contacting us firstname.lastname@example.org