I’m very picky with my contemporary reading choices, and my steampunk preferences tend to run contrary to the current paranormal trend, but happily there is now so much indie fiction available for consumption (combustion?), that I do find some great reads. Here are a couple of steampunk novellas (the first of their respective series) which I have recently enjoyed and heartily recommend. Both are set miles away from dreary, gaslit London…
Murder Out of the Blue by Steve Turnbull
UK: Murder out of the Blue (Maliha Anderson)
US: Murder out of the Blue (Maliha Anderson)
The heroine of this Edwardian steampunk whodunnit is Maliha Anderson, a half-English, half-Indian nineteen-year-old with a mysterious past. Contending with racism, sexism, and a leg wound, she nevertheless sets out to solve a murder on a voidship voyage from Khartoum to Ceylon.
The Author’s explanation of the series from the Amazon US page is nicely elucidatory:
These books are set in the Voidships Steampunk world.
What’s Steampunk? The quickest answer is “Victorian Science Fiction” and the pretentious answer is “Retro-futurism”. But more importantly where the “steam” part represents science and industry, the “punk” part represents rebellion. Steampunk stories tend to involve people breaking out of the strictures of society, and who needs to break out more than women?
What’s Voidships? It’s just a word we use to describe an entire world where, in 1843, Faraday demonstrated the partial nullification of gravity – and everything else is alternative history.
As someone who struggles with plot and politics, I could appreciate Turnbull’s skill in both. I think he’s chosen an excellent character to explore a complicated empire, and I’ve already begun reading the second novella in the series, ‘Blood Sky at Night’.
Flash Gold by Lindsay Buroker
UK: Flash Gold (The Flash Gold Chronicles)
US: Flash Gold (The Flash Gold Chronicles)
This is the first (free) novella in the Flash Gold Chronicles. Set in the Yukon, it’s a fast-paced adventure with zeppelins, gunfights, and compelling characters. The heroine, Kali McAlister, is an outcast in her small town, and also the keeper of her Father’s powerful invention, the eponymous ‘flash gold’. She enters her steam-and-flash-gold-powered sled into a dogsled race, hoping that the prize money will allow her to leave town for good.
The writing could use a little polishing, but it doesn’t get in the way of the story. Buroker is particularly clever to use a race to frame the story, as it adds its own impetus, suspense and resolution.
I hope you pick them up for your digital library! I welcome any recommendations on Twitter.