Genre: Steampunk Fantasy

Tuesday, May 22, 2012; 9:45am to 12:00N at the Tewksbury Public Library

Steampunk assignment for May 22, 2012: Benchmark:  Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. 

Minutes from May 2012 RA Roundtable meeting: Thanks to Tricia Arrington


Congratulations to Leane Ellis for being inducted to the MLA Hall of Fame and to Jan Resnick for becoming a Commissioner of the MBLC.

For the summer we will be reading travel narratives and meeting in Methuen on Sept. 25th. There are plenty of possibilities for your third choice in the Joyce Saricks’ handout .

Please post your secondary titles! Post reviews for books you’ve read over the summer in any genre.

Leane will be going in for knee surgery on June 15. Good luck!

Jan and Leane talked about the process of selecting Mass Book Award Winners and urged everyone to attend a Mass Book Award Workshop. The difference between being a judge and doing RA is that for RA you think: who would like this book? Whereas a judge looks for books that will stand the test of time.

Link to ARRT Non-fiction Genre Study:

Boneshaker – Cherie Priest

The Appeals:

  • Adventure
  • Swashbuckling
  • The premise
  • The mixing of history and science fiction
  • Quest to figure out the truth about Zeke’s family/Coming of age
  • Worldbuilding – fully realized. Priest new what happened before this story and what happened after, it’s far-reaching.
  • Historical
  • Wild, wild west feel
  • Zombies – psychological force. You can see people who are turned into zombies which makes it more poignant. They quicken the pace of the book. They invoke fear. They unify the living.
  • Descriptive language

Wrap –up Appeal:

  • Innovation
  • Language
  • World building/adventure
  • Characters
  • Pacing – sometimes the info dump/technology can slow down the pacing if it’s not done well.
  • Some element of quirkiness
  • Introduces elements of fantasy and sci-fi
  • Crossover appeal with alternate history and sci-fi

 General Discussion:

There are the two worlds inside and outside. Dr. Minneracht wouldn’t be as powerful a figure outside. Inside he has a lot of power because he controls some of the technology. Lucy’s arms for example. He’s an evil genius. But you don’t start out thinking that. He cultivates the idea that he is Blue. This makes the pacing better.

The image of masks: They are something you need to breathe, but they’re uncomfortable and you can’t breathe well. The characters see the world through these masks.

Zeke is a likable character. Typical of adolescents, he fails to think things through. He probably didn’t think things would be as bad inside. The instinct to know where you come from is strong in teens, because your parents are so much of who you are. If they are wronged you want to make sure that he is proven to be a good person.

Briar – Feels a sense of shame. She doesn’t want to talk about the past, but that may make Zeke want to find out more about it. She’s a great example of the single working parent. She feels that not telling Zeke about his father will keep him safe. She suffers a great deal because of her husband. Her other secret that she doesn’t want her son to know is a “big tell.” She is her father’s daughter and that helps Zeke.

Alternate History Concept works well.

Secondary characters:

Lucy – it is weird that she is afraid of Dr. Minneracht yet she is totally dependent on him for her arm.


The quest for family

Drug cycle (really well done. It takes something from our lives but gives it a special resonance. It was a reason people were living in that horrible place, betraying each other and/or working with Dr. M.

Great language

NOTE: Jan brought up that Novelist’s characteristics of appeal do not include character. So she asked us to think of some terms for character. Why are they so compelling or engaging? What are some qualities for secondary characters? Some examples: brave, strong female, strong supporting cast, multiple points of view, intriguing back stories, unreliable narrators.

Secondary Titles

The Falling Machine – Andrew Mayer (Sarah)

Part of the Society of Steam Series. Alternate New York. The Society of Paragons keep evil at bay. They are a group of aging men with magical capabilities. Their leader has created fortified steam to enhance their limited capabilities. He’s murdered in the first chapter and they must investigate his murder.  The steampunk technology is described in excrutiating details.

Appeal: Frame, Characters, Pacing

Dead Iron – Devon Monk (Michelle)

Alternate Chapters with 3 characters. Cedar Hunt is an educated eastern main cursed by Pawnee Gods. He has a dual nature that turns him into a beast. He has come out west to become a bounty. Rose Small is a young girl who sees things. Chard la Felle is a dark fairy from a different world banished to ours. He has to make 3 sacrifices to get back to his world and Cedar is trying to prevent him.

Appeal: Western, atmosphere, character

Phoenix Rising – Pip Ballantine (Tricia & Molly)

Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences agents Eliza D. Braun rescues her compatriot Wellington Books the ministries archivist from the evil House of Usher. However, on her way out, she gets sets off a few too many explosives. As her punishment, she must spend her foreseeable future with Agent Books in the Archives. Both agents are soon sneaking out to try and solve a cold case.

Appeal: Character, Victorian atmosphere

Leviathan – Scott Westerfeld (Jan)

Europe is split into two factions: the English Darwinists who have incorporate genes into their machinery and the German/Austrian Clankers who use steam-driven technology. Prince Alexander is a Clanker and Deryn Sharpe is a Darwinist who is trying to pass as boy so she can be part of the flying corps. Their paths cross when Alexander escapes to Switzerland.

Appeal: Character, Readalike for Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Soulless – Gail Carriger

Book one in the Parasol Protectorate series. Alexia Tarabotti is living in an alternate Victorian England populated by vampires and werewolves. She is soulless. So, if she touches a werewolf or a vampire, they lose their power. There is a simmering romance between Alexia and the local alpha werewolf. Reads a lot like an historical novel maybe more paranormal than steampunk.

Appeal: Character, (good secondary characters as well), humor, romance, setting (all the pretenses of Victorian England), mystery

Second Titles

Jan Resnick

Soulless – Gail Carriger, pseud. of Tofa Borregaard
Appeal Factors: Pace – fast; character – clever, outspoken heroine; Language – engaging; Story – character-driven; Tone – steamy, suspenseful, witty; Frame – Victorian London, 19th century

New vampires who don’t know the rules are appearing in London and disappearing elsewhere. Alexia Tarabotti, soulless, accidentally kills one of them starting an investigation by the Bureau of Unnatural Registry (BUR) and involves Alexia with Lord Maccon, alpha werewolf of the BUR. Alexia is one of the rare soulless humans whose mere touch renders the paranormal human and vulnerable for the length of the touch.

  • Book #1 of the Parasol Protectorate series; Alexia Tarrabotti series.
  • Locus Award finalist for Best First Novel as well as other Science Fiction/fantasy awards.
  • Similar authors: Gail Carrigar, Lydia Dare, Phillipa Ballentine, Jim Butcher, Elizabeth Peters – Amelia Peabody

Leviathan – Scott Westerfeld
Appeal Factors: Pace – fast; character – outspoken hero and heroine, well-developed, coming of age; Language – engaging; Story – character-driven, alternate history, world building; Tone – suspenseful, witty; Frame – England, Austria, 1914

In an alternate Europe of 1914, Prince Alek escapes to Switzerland in a Cyclop Stormwalker after the assassination of his parents. Deryn Sharp, disguised as a boy in order join the air service, is serving on the genetically engineered Leviathan. After the crash of Leviathan, Alek and Deryn set aside their Clanker/Darwinist differences to save Dr. Barlow’s secret mission as well as their own lives.

  • Book #1 of the Leviathan Trilogy
  • Starred reviews in SLJ, PW, and Kirkus.
  • Similar authors: Suzanne Collins (Gregor, the Overlander), Chris Wooding (The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray), Catherine Fisher (Incarceron), Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines, Fever Crumb, Laralight), Kenneth Oppel (Airborn), Kate Milford (The Boneshaker)

Michelle Deschene-Warren

Dead Iron – Devon Monk
1st in the Cedar Hunt series
Appeal Factors: Tone; Character; Language; Frame

Cedar Hunt, a tracker hiding his dual nature from the townsfolk of Hallelujah, Oregon, finds himself embroiled in an escalating conflict involving an exiled dark prince, a witch, and a trio of brothers who aren’t at all what they seem.

The western/frontier setting and atmosphere sets this one apart from some of the other recent Steampunk offerings. The language is rich, relying on the show-don’t-tell principle of writing, and the characters are a highly engaging bunch that keep the pages turning at a rapid clip. There are some drawbacks: repetition, a plot that feels, despite a fair number of conflicts circling the central one, somewhat superficial, and a lot of unanswered questions regarding character backstories. However, there’s a lot to appreciate about it, too, and should appeal to a wide range of readers.

Sarah Woo

The Falling Machine – Andrew P. Mayer
Appeal Factors: World-building; Fast-paced; Character (strong female)

Steampunk fans will probably enjoy this first in The Society of Steam series, set in an alternate Victorian New York, although they will need to read future titles in the series if they hope for any real resolution. The story begins with the murder of the leader of a group of self-proclaimed paragons who see it as their responsibility to right wrongs in the city, sometimes with questionable motives. The young heroine, Sarah Stanton, is determined to solve the mystery of who murdered her mentor, but the only “person” she can trust is the dead leader’s creation, “Tom the Automaton.” Fully realized world, several characters we care about and who demonstrate growth, and lots of action including several more murders.