4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 6 April 2012
This book has the makings of a great resource for steampunk writers. Want to know when the breech-loading needle gun was invented, or when the founder of phrenology died? Interested in how Victorian ladies dressed or California Gold Strike miners spoke? This book gives you the basics and the tools to find out more. I've read much worse how-to-write books, and I certainly don't begrudge £3.20 for this one.
Unfortunately, the Kindle edition was distractingly riddled with typos and errors. Many published books have a few typos here and there, but this one goes above and beyond, with a mistake on almost every page. At one point she misspells Jane Austen, Mrs Radcliffe and Byron all in the same paragraph. Earlier on she gets both 'Cylons' and 'Battlestar Galactica' wrong in the same sentence. Other people whose names she mangles include Nicolas Flamel, Gilgamesh and Engels.
It's not just the typos, there are often utterly confused sentences, such as 'The Suttee, the Indian customer of adding a living wife to a dead mister's pyre, is abolished in British India' or 'For those who have dipped into a Regency set tale by Georgette Heyer, a number of the words in the first section will remind them of those dripping from a Corinthian's chistled lips or that of his tiger or a Bow Street Runner'. Also, some sections go into far more detail than others - the section on guns is particularly thorough, whereas the section on the theatre is just a list of names to Google.
There is some useful stuff here and some great recommendations, and I liked the friendly, jokey tone in which it was written. It's just a shame the presentation isn't better.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 27 September 2011
This is a clearly written and clearly organised writers' guide. The book is of a substantial length, but most of the second half is potted advice on historical research and time-lines/lists. The advice given in the more useful first half is abundant and relevant. It may be especially useful for a younger/emerging long-form writer who wants to devise a contemporary steampunk novel with a typical plot with all the 'required elements' nailed down, but who doesn't want to: 1) spend months reading _all_ the steampunk there is to read; 2) spend a year reading old original Victorian novels (H.G. Wells, Dickens, Conan Doyle, should keep you going for the first year...); and 3) spend yet more months on reading into the required historical research. The book does, however, rightly stress just how important your original historical research will be for making a success of this sort of novel. Once upon a time steampunk was deemed science-fiction, but now it veers toward supernatural fantasy (currently selling like hot cakes, which may have something to do with the shift) but that doesn't mean you can now throw the research out the window and just go with hazy aery-faerie stuff. This book reflects that shift in taste. That's fine, but it might be a little constricting if a beginner was _only_ guided by this one book. You need to remember it's possible to do all sorts of other things with steampunk. For instance, those wanting to write Lovecraftian steampunk should also look at an excellent how-to writers' book called _Stealing Cthulhu_. Those who want to see how steampunk can be succesfully blended with cyberpunk should look at novels like _The British Empire: Psychic Battalions Against The Morlocks_. There are plenty of other recent examples (romance, war, espionage, literary, comedy etc) that step beyond 'the list' of greats given by the author. Such hybrids-within-hybrids point to the need to layer a whole lot of imagination on top of any basic plot that you might prise out of this book. _Writing Steampunk_ will certainly help you get that basic plot, and with more or less the right patina of basic historical elements and dates. I might have added some additional advice, such as - try writing about a place-with-history near you, but not actually where you live, and re-imagining it as steampunk and then using it as your setting. I bought this book on the Kindle, and felt I had had my money's worth. I'm not sure if I would have felt the same if I had purchased the more expensive print version. Sadly the book on the Kindle is not fronted with a nice book-cover image (although this is probably a mercy, considering the naff cover on the paperback), and the table-of-contents chapter listing is not linked/clickable - I missed such small things, which "set the scene" on first encountering an ebook. Overall, this is worth having on the Kindle.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 December 2011
I'm glad I bought this book. I should point out (as the author does) that this isn't a book that teaches you how to write. It's more a resource that outlines the main tropes of Steampunk and provides a useful list of references and starting points for researching the Victorian Era. If you're already very knowledgeable about Steampunk this book probably isn't for you, but it's a very valuable introduction to the genre and what it entails for those who are venturing into the area. It also provides ideas for writers who want to work out what aspect of Steampunk they want to focus on. Would definitely recommend.