Book - 2010
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A novel.
Publisher: Brooklyn, N.Y. : Melville House, c2010
ISBN: 9781935554134
Characteristics: 409 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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Jul 03, 2015

Imagine a mashup of Neuromancer and The Golden Compass, only with somewhat ridiculous amounts of sex and even more drugs thrown in. The story works for the most part, but the great effort Valtat expends demonstrating just how dystopian the society of New Venice is somewhat detracts from the experience. Also, as another commenter said, the female characters are weak and shallow. Possibly an attempt to be true to the steam age, but the effect is distasteful here.

Mar 12, 2013

Sexist, if not misogynist, story.

Jul 02, 2012

I would like to share with you my favorite Steampunk novel. I have just finished re-reading Jean-Cristophe Valtat’s recent steampunk mystery, Aurorarama, and while reading, I realized that this steampunk, Arctic, surreal, mystery novel manages to get nearly everything right where most Steampunk authors go wrong.

The genre of Steampunk is a young genre. An equal mix of historical, sci-fi space romance, and fantasy, it has yet to get over the novelty of itself. In too many books, the focus is on the cleverness of the author who manages to affix steam- in front of every imaginable technology, completely forgetting about plot in the process. Other authors go even further, and manage to shove into the book every trending mimetic idea, vampires, ninjas, zombies, superheros, into the Victorian England setting. On a more literary note, steampunk novels often shoe-horn themselves by obsessing too much on Victorian England and lose out on benefiting from the amazing multiculturalism of the late nineteenth, early twentieth centuries. In the same way, many novels focus entirely on only one aspect of nineteenth century society, making the plot too simplistic. Valtat manages to write an encapsulating novel that avoids these problems.

Aurorarama is above all else about setting: the miraculous, shining city of New Venice, positioned high in the Canadian Arctic. It is the city that represents all the feelings of the turn-of-century. Mysticism and science, aristocracy and anarchism, and new drugs and new music acting as a backdrop to corrupt politicians all kaleidoscope through the book. The descriptions of New Venice’s neighborhoods are vivid and meticulous, and Valtat does an amazing job combining steampunk, bohemian European, Arctic Inuit, Gothic, and Art Nouveau elements together. The two protagonists’ experiences stitch together to create a complete tapestry of the city. The bohemian Gabriel D’Allier stumbles through the seedy drug-culture of the Artic Paradise, while the aristocratic Brentford Orsini mingles with the rich and glamorous “Arcticocracy.”

The plot is multi-layered to say the least. It succeeds in integrating many issues of turn-of-the-century European colonies with elements of mysticism, surrealism, and mystery. To try to summarize the plot is like tracing the roots of a plant. In the simplest of terms, D’Allier and Orsini, their lives unraveling, find themselves trapped in a conspiracy that started with the city’s founding that extends all over the Arctic. I was not overwhelmed with the third act of the book, in which the plot is wrapped up quickly and mostly bloodlessly, a revolution of which that even the protagonists are incredulous. Valtat’s usage of hallucinations and dreams as a plot device, mixed with the dream-like scenery, enhanced the dreamy allure of the Arctic setting.

Valtat’s Aurorarama is a beautifully rendered Steampunk world, one that neither obsesses with its own novelty nor pigeonholes itself in any way. It is as expansive and magically real as the Arctic. I would highly recommend this book.


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Sep 16, 2012

1908. New Venice - the pearl of the Arctic - is a place of ice palaces and pneumatic tubes, of beautifully ornate carriage-sleds and elegant Victorian garb. But as the city prepares for spring, local 'poletics' are wracked by tension as Eskimos circle the city, with suffragette riots and drugs roundups heightening the anxiety. An ominous black airship hovers over the city and the Gentlemen of the Night, the local police, are hunting for the author of a radical pamphlet called Revolt. Brilliant in conception, this masterpiece marks a fascinating new series.


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