Thursday, August 31, 2017

"Stars & Steam" by Anthea Sharp

This book contains 5 space-related Steampunk stories. The first of which, “The Sun Never Sets,” begins in London in the year 1850. In this tale, a young woman with an interest in Astronomy discovers what she believes to be a previously unknown comet. In the weeks that follow, this object appears to grow larger and larger until it seems that it will crash into London and likely destroy the planet in the process. Then suddenly, it stops moving and a smaller object detaches and comes to land on the grounds of the palace. An alien exits the ship to speak with Queen Victoria.

His species wishes to share knowledge with the planet, beginning with the Queen. But to do so she must agree to allow them to make clones of her to take over her rule when she passes on, essentially allowing her to rule eternally. If she refuses, they will go and make the offer to Napoleon of France instead. Queen Victoria agrees with a few conditions of her own. It is at this point that I must stop my description of this story as continuing beyond this point would spoil the ending for you. I found it a short but enjoyable beginning to the book.

The next story in this book was “The Perfect Perfume.” In this tale we have a young woman, the daughter of one of the most renowned perfumers in London, attempting to create a scent that will save her business from closing down. Her parents had recently died in an airship accident and if she fails in her latest attempt, she will be forced to give up and seek employment as a governess. She heads to a disreputable part of town seeking a new ingredient in the hopes that it will add a luminescence to her scent that may be seen in the dark. Will the star stone that she purchases for an unusually large sum be what she needs or will she be forced to give up on her dream?

"Passage Out" was a nice little story about two homeless young people who live on the streets near a spaceport. The two have long dreamed of being able to travel into space, but realize that it is naught but a dream as they will never be able to afford to pay for passage anywhere. Then one day, they discover a hidden tunnel that leads them into the spaceport where they can see the docked ships as well as those landing and taking off. Here is where things really begin to get interesting for them both.

“Victoria Eternal” was an interesting addition to this collection. It takes place during the 14th reign of Queen Victoria on one of the far away planets that are now a part of the British Empire. In it, we learn that one of the characters is the grandson of the 13th incarnation of Queen Victoria. This is unusual as any children of the Queen are usually quietly killed to prevent an overabundance of heirs to the throne. After all, an heir is not needed since once the current incarnation dies, a clone is awoken to take her place. There has been a resistance building to this practice among the populace, but thus far all efforts to change things have been unsuccessful. Part of the problem is that the clones are kept in devices that human technology has yet to find a way to damage, let alone destroy.

The last story in this collection is “Marianne’s Flight.” Marianne lives on one of the British Empire’s colony planets with her family. Her father is the extremely strict and unpopular Colony Governor. Marianne desires to study and become an Ambassador to other societies, but her father refuses to allow her to leave to attend the necessary college classes back on Earth. When word begins to spread that Queen Victoria and all of her clones are dead, the riots begin. Marianne’s father refuses to leave his mansion, nor will he allow any of his family to leave. You’ll have to read the rest of this one yourself if you want to find out what happens to them.

It’s been a while since I’ve read many Steampunk stories. My only complaint with this book is that I wished the stories had been longer. I wanted to know more about what would happen to the characters. I’ll definitely have to look up some of this author’s other available books in the near future.

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