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Let’s get one thing out of the way: I like novels, not short stories. Short stories frustrate me, because one of two things always occurs while I read. 1) As I read I think, “What on earth is going on?” and then it’s over. 2) As I read I think, “Wow this is getting really good – ” and then it’s over. Either there’s not enough time for proper worldbuilding and character development and nothing makes sense, or the story really captures me and then ends too soon.
The problem is that every two years or so I forget this and go and pick up a new anthology of short stories, like this one, Corsets and Clockwork. Oh, well…
All of the stories are steampunk, and have some elements of romance as well, which causes a massive outbreak of instalove! throughout the collection. Many take place in some sort of England, although others feature the Wild West, pre-WWII Germany, and fantasy environments. At least 10 of the stories mentioned corsets. Many of them had clockwork as well. In fact, there was even one story called “The Clockwork Corset.”
If you’ve survived being whapped in the face with all the blatant steampunk-ness, we’ll move on to the stories themselves. I tried to read all of them, I really did. However, old instincts and library due dates took over, so a few I either put down or skimmed. As for the ones I did read…
Code of Blood by Dru Pagliassotti – I read this author’s Clockwork Heart earlier this year and really enjoyed it, and her short story here does not disappoint. In an alternate 19th century Venice, a nobleman’s granddaughter has to save the city from French invaders. Pagliassotti’s worldbuilding is well-done in a short span of time, with elementals, steamboats and a blood sacrifice.
The Airship Gemini by Jaclyn Dolamore – I can’t remember having read a story with a Siamese twin as a protagonist before. Airships are always good, too (see the Airborn Trilogy by Kenneth Oppel – one of my all-time favorites). I really like Dolamore’s novel Magic Under Glass and this story is intriguing. However, I feel it really could have been a full novel instead of a story especially since the ending is a bit of a deux ex machina.
Under Amber Skies by Maria V. Snyder – I swear that it’s a coincidence that my three favorite stories were by authors that I had already read things by! I honestly wouldn’t have recognized this story as being by Snyder, but come to think of it, Poison Study was very dark and so was this story. Set on the cusp of World War II, Nazis are looking for Zosia’s father, an Polish inventor who disappeared months ago. Quite good, with a killer twist!
The one to avoid:
Cannibal Fiend of Rotherhithe by Frewin Jones – I knew Jones for the uber-frothy Faerie Path series (I mean, look at the covers!). I think he was trying to break away from that formula, because his story here is nothing like the faerie books. There is implied rape. There is main character who is a cannibalistic half-mermaid. There is general weirdness. Skip this one.
The rest of the stories were pretty mediocre. Some were entertaining (Tick Tick Boom by Kiersten White) and some were just confusing as all get-out (The Vast Machinery of Dreams by Caitlin Kittredge). The three favorites listed above were worth the read, but I would not recommend going out of your way to read this anthology.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Cover & Title: As mentioned before, the title is…fitting. The cover is pretty, though they could have done something more imaginative than Generic Female Face Close-Up.
Where I got the book: Local library