Review: The Velocipede Races

Initial Thoughts:

This was actually more entertaining than I thought, though admittedly the story dragged in parts. Still worth the read though! And I mean…why wouldn’t it be when it has a woman shattering glass ceilings?


THE VELOCIPEDE RACES

by Emily June Street
Elly Blue Publishing, April 2016
Science fiction, steampunk
Rated: 3 / 5 cookies

Emmeline Escot knows that she was born to ride in Seren’s cutthroat velocipede races. The only problem: She’s female in a world where women lead tightly laced lives. Emmeline watches her twin brother gain success as a professional racing jockey while her own life grows increasingly narrow. Ever more stifled by rules, corsets, and her upcoming marriage of convenience to a brusque stranger, Emmy rebels—with stunning consequences. Can her dream to race survive scandal, scrutiny, and heartbreak?

I totally picked this book up because I can never resist a good ole “girl dresses up as boy, girl shows the world she can play with other boys” trope. In The Velocipede Races, the trope is no different, and yes, in that sense, it is pretty damn predictable.

But, I mean, friggin’ velocipedes, man. VELOCIPEDES.

For those not familiar, velocipedes are contraptions best associated with Victorian era innovation. It’s essentially a bike, though I do believe the wheels are bigger at the front and smaller at the back, so there’s a bit more of a balancing skill that goes along with riding the velo as well. In any case, it’s a contraption that many Serenians in the book enjoy to ride and watch.

Well, many male Serenians anyway.

Heaven forbid if females were interested in racing velos or anything. That would be scandalous in Serenian society, especially when the particular female is riesen (noble). And, in Emmeline’s case, it’s exactly that, because she’s that athletic riesen woman who’d do anything to take to the wheel of a velo and race her heart out. Only, the only thing she’s expected to do is marry some rich man while her twin brother undergoes the proper training to become a velo racer.

We know where things can go from there. Oh, yes, she’s got a twin brother who looks enough like her. Oh, yes, Emmeline is going to take advantage of that, and no matter how many times Gabriel has dissuaded her from trying to sneak out and practice alongside him, she does it anyway. Even after she is thrown into a reluctant marriage, Emmeline still finds a way.

And then things slowly go downhill from there.

In all honesty, much of this story has been told before, over and over again. And yet, I still find it charming to read, because how can I not love a woman who has a passion that goes beyond societal expectations? (As someone whose field of study is still largely male-dominated, I can totally relate). How can I not love a woman who knows exactly what she wants from life and husband be damned if he tried to stop her.

So yeah, I liked Emmeline. Very much. Even in her single-minded zeal towards velo racing and her almost ignoring anything else in society. I say almost because by the end, she does find another love, one she finds highly unexpected.

That said, I thought the story was paced too slow at times, and too fast at others. The velocipede races themselves were meticulously described, and yet, there were “blink and you miss it” moments that forced me to stop halfway into the description of a race to only go back and repeat the segment again. I suppose it’s styled like an actual race, which is kind of cool in that way, but read weirdly for me.

I also didn’t really feel like any of the other characters stood out. Gabriel was a close second in terms of most development, personality-wise, but there wasn’t really much time to develop him, considering he often disappeared to do his own thing while Emmeline was left to her own devices. Even the other secondary characters show up in a scene and then disappear so quickly that I couldn’t really form an opinion about them. (Except Eddings. Eddings was just a cocky little chauvinistic shite.)

I was a little disappointed that Everett was often written out of the picture half the time, with Emmeline stating that he’s “busy with work.” I mean, honestly, he was an intriguing character, a strange, self-made man in a society he barely acknowledges as his own. From the beginning, he’s seen as a mysterious personality, and his thoughts about Emmy are often hidden under inscrutable stares and coarse, blunt language. It made for an awkward romance at times, and I really did want more out of that relationship.

All that said, I found the book charming. Serenian society and its surrounding world is fashioned after Victorian England, and I’m sure if Victorian England had developed through the ages fast enough, it would have velocipede races, too. I’m sure the suffragettes would have tried their best to applaud anyone who has shattered the glass ceiling, which Emmeline was bound to do with her velocipede passion. And that’s really where the book shined the most, within the description of Emmeline’s love for velo races.

3 out of 5 cookies!

This counts as #2 of the Steampunk Reading Challenge.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Steampunk Madness and Matriarchs || Monstress, Vol. 1 Review

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Initial Thoughts: 

A speculative Asia during the 1900s with a largely matriarchal society on BOTH sides of a brutal human-beast war? New. Favorite. Series. EVER.

MONSTRESS, VOL. 1

by Marjorie M. Liu (author), Sana Takeda (illustrator)
Image Comics, July 2016
Graphic novel, science fiction, fantasy
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies
e-ARC provided by NetGalley

monstressSet in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steampunk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both.

Image Comics Strikes Again

This time in an Asian steampunk world. And it looks effing fabulous. When I got an email about this series being opened up on NetGalley, I knew I had to read it. It’s been on my TBR since I was alerted to it by The Book Smugglers, and I do not regret it one bit.

First of all, Takeda’s artwork is gorgeous. It’s half manga, half Westernized comics, a perfect combination of both, and so detailed I almost wanted to screenshot every darn page. There were several times where a page was just filled with wordless panels, and my gosh, the illustrated depiction of what’s happening on that page…it certainly brings proof to the old “a picture is worth a thousand words” adage.

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The main character is a feisty, stubborn, kick-ass one-armed Asian woman. She’s survived a violent war. She’s survived a traumatic enslavement experience. She’s survived the loss of a limb and the aftermath of conflict between two powerful factions. She’s seen shit. And she’s angry. On top of that, she wants to know what’s happening–and what’s happened–to her. And she’ll break down doors if she has to. I love her to bits.

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She also has a lovely way with words, that Maiko.

The matriarchal powers that be. The series is rife with fem-power on both sides. In fact, some of the highest positions are held by women. One of the first immortal ancients we see is a Wolf Queen. The first half-breed is a powerful woman, someone who apparently shook the world. The Cumaea is an order of witch-nuns who’ve taken the highest form of power in the human government. Heck, Lady Sophia is displayed quite remarkably as a woman who buys Arcanic slaves. She’s in charge, she’s despicable, and she gives zero fucks because she has shit to do and Arcanics to experiment on. Not to mention the fact that there’s a little romance (LGBT from what I saw!) but so far it hasn’t overwhelmed the narrative. It’s female empowerment to the max.

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There’s no better way to walk into a slave auction than in style. I’ll give it to Lady Sophia, she knows how to make an entrance.

It’s an adventure story drenched with the problems of race, war, and disability (both physical and emotional). It’s dark and merciless and it definitely makes no apology in showing the cruelties of the post-war world. Takeda’s depiction of Liu’s people makes for a great collaboration, and there’s really not much I can say against the series at the moment. I loved the entire volume.

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Also, Mister Ren. That two-tailed cat is the bees’ knees.

5 out of 5 cookies! Now, I’m not sure where the rest of this series is going just yet, but my gosh, I want the next issues already. Like, now.


monstress-all

Chasing Volcanoes: A Czech Translation

seaisoursOnce upon a time (re: a year and a half ago), I wrote a steampunk story that revolved around a destroyed Northern Philippines (speculative volcanic eruptions and the like). I sent it out, I squeed about finding a home for it (many thanks to the wonderful editrixes Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng, and publisher Bill Campbell at Rosarium Publishing for the acceptance!), I squeed again when it got illustrated (by Pear Nuallak), and I practically did a funny little dance in the middle of my living room when it finally, finally, FINALLY got published.

(I did another funny dance at the local B&N soon after I saw it on a scifi anthology shelf…but I swear I didn’t cause that much of a scene!)

And while I am grateful that this particular story went out into the world amidst critiquing eyes and steampunk enthusiasts, I am still wonderfully surprised at the feedback over “Chasing Volcanoes.” I certainly didn’t expect to get an email about it–and the rest of the The Sea is Ours anthology–being translated into Czech. The fact that the title of said Czech book IS a translation of “Chasing Volcanoes” has gone above and beyond any expectation I have with the stories I’ve written.

But there you go. It’s happened. I’m squeeing again. I’m writing about it again.

Thanks to Jan Kravčík at Gorgon Books, “Chasing Volcanoes” has got a Czech coating. And honestly, that cover is beautiful. While I know nothing in the Czech language (well, correction, I now know what “Kroceni Sopek” means), I am truly astounded–and excited–at the increasing readership, both for my story (because honestly, why wouldn’t I be excited that my work goes out there?) and for the wonderful fellow Southeast Asian authors I’ve shared the anthology with.

Now, if only I’d known about this translation BEFORE I’d gone to Praha last summer. I suppose maybe next time (because there most certainly will be a next time!) I visit Prague I’ll try to find my way into a bookshop.

Anyway, for the Czech readers out there, watch out for Kroceni Sopek, coming to you in a few weeks!

TTT: In the Mood for Steampunk

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For more information on Top Ten Tuesday, click here.

Last month, another round of Steampunk Hands Around the World was hosted by Airship Ambassador, and it took place all of February. I…may have forgotten this (even though I follow the blog on a regular basis), but I figure I’ll do something steampunky anyway, because um, it’s only the first of March?

Top Ten Books To Read If You Are In The Mood for Steampunk

Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris – This one’s got a dual perspective (dynamic duo, geddit?), so occasionally we get Agent Books’ side of the story and then Agent Braun’s (har har). I love me a girl who is unafraid of carrying dynamite in her corset, and the guy is pretty fab for a toff, so there. I loved this book.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld – I will further make note of the fact that Leviathan is only book one of a most fantastic trilogy, and nobody should stop at only book 1. Especially when Scott Westerfeld is involved. I recently gave this to a student of mine for Christmas, and he practically devoured it. “He” being a precocious 11-year-old, that is. But I mean, come on! Historical fiction, steampunk and travel and bio-engineered FLYING WHALESHIPS! What’s not to love?!

The Steampunk Bible by Jeff VanderMeer – Admittedly, I’ve added this book in here not so much because it’s a work of fiction, but because it is a lovely collection of steampunky things. It is rudimentary in its information, I love the cover, and the pictures are faboo too. Seriously, though, if you’re still scratching your head and trying to figure out what steampunk is, you can take a look at this book and go from there.

Corsets & Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances edited by Trisha Telep – Always a handy collection of stories to look through! I still remember quite a number of them, actually. And I’m pretty sure a bunch have been inspirations for my own steampunk work (which I’m still working on, ugh).

Soulless by Gail Carriger – Supernatural Victorian steampunk goodness! Talk about a mixture of fantasy and scifi during alternately historical England. I’ve also managed to get one of my writing students addicted to the graphic novel of this book, though I did warn her I only had an issue sampler so wouldn’t be able to provide her with the rest of the story. Oops?

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress – I procured an ARC of this book a while back, and after having finally read it a year or two later, I realized I actually enjoyed it. It’s a book about three different girls living in Victorian London (yeah, there really should be non-Victorian London steampunk out there…) who solve crimes and triumph over evil. Sort of like Sailor Moon’s gang. Just saying.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison – Okay, this book certainly takes steampunk to a different world! The Goblin Emperor follows Maia, a half-goblin who finds himself the ruler of a non-goblin kingdom. It has airships, innovation, and lots of steampunky elements, on top of a rather complicated political balance and a fantastically created world.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest – Thank goodness for steampunk taking place outside of Victorian London! Priest’s Clockwork Century series typically takes place in an alternate United States during the Civil War. Boneshaker, in this case, takes place in Seattle after a poisonous gas leaks out of the ground, turning its victims into mindless zombies. Oh yes. It’s a steampunk zombie apocalypse, people. Best frelling kind of apocalypse, let me tell ya.

Snow: A Retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Tracy Lynn – Now I didn’t enjoy this as my sister did, but I will admit it’s a lovely fairy tale retelling with a steampunk twist. You know, when fairy tale retellings and steampunk weren’t trends. I was never a fan of the actual Snow White story, but if you do have to read a retelling of it, I’d go for Snow any time.

Larklight by Philip Reeve – This one is another children’s fantasy/scifi, and it takes place in a house that kind of doubles up as a travelling satellite. It moves around in space, and the kids go on a grand adventure to fight evil aliens and stuff. I really enjoyed it in any case.

WeWriWa #14: 20 December 2015

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8-Sentence Sunday is hosted by Weekend Writing Warriors.

I think Lan goes into bouts of inner thoughts more often than Eirika. I suppose that can’t be helped, as they are two different viewpoints altogether. All the same, there isn’t much action in the first chapter with him, though I suppose with all of the action being packed into Eirika’s first chapter, this couldn’t be helped.

For previous Lan-ish excerpts, click HERE and HERE.

“Are you the gentleman who procured the clocktower job?” A timid, gentle voice asked as Lan stepped out of the bar.

Well, hello, he thought. He eyed the woman, a slightly plump young maid wearing a flowing pale blue dress, complete with a silk ribbon band tied at the top of her brown curls. Her face was deathly pale, as though the Pernatan sun had not touched her skin, yet she stood underneath the bright, beaming sunshine without a hat or a mask. A bright red tattoo was found at the base of her long neck. While the insignia barely showed, Lan identified the color as the ink of Paracelsus, the Salamander Tower.

There was something odd with the way she stood, stationary, graceful, unmoving. But hell, she was attractive. “Yeah, that’d be me.”


Story Notes: Amber and Tourmalines (working title, definitely not the final one) is a story of a black market dealer and her investigation into the untimely deaths of important colleagues. It is also a story of a man down on his luck and resorting to thievery to make ends meet. Only the man’s pretty bad at petty theft, but a rather decent clockmaker. The black market dealer has no problem pointing this out–and involuntarily recruiting him to a life of crime.