How about a nice, hearty helping of steampunk (and some other things)?
Green by Jay Lake
She was born in poverty, in a dusty village under the equatorial sun. She does not remember her mother, she does not remember her own name—her earliest clear memory is of the day her father sold her to the tall pale man. In the Court of the Pomegranate Tree, where she was taught the ways of a courtesan…and the skills of an assassin…she was named Emerald, the precious jewel of the Undying Duke’s collection of beauties.
She calls herself Green.
The world she inhabits is one of political power and magic, where Gods meddle in the affairs of mortals. At the center of it is the immortal Duke’s city of Copper Downs, which controls all the trade on the Storm Sea. Green has made many enemies, and some secret friends, and she has become a very dangerous woman indeed.
Acclaimed author Jay Lake has created a remarkable character in Green, and evokes a remarkable world in this novel. Green and her struggle to survive and find her own past will live in the reader’s mind for a long time after closing the book.
I’m always a little concerned about the whiteness of speculative fiction. While I love Firefly, I also note that, for a universe that’s supposed to be half-Chinese, there aren’t any Asians in the cast. Green features a world with British, Chinese, and Indian-inspired countries, and Green herself hails from the China parallel. After reading Graceling (review forthcoming!), I’m always up for a story about fantastical lady killers, and Green certainly sounds like it fits the bill, with the bonus of a very unique steampunk fantasy setting.
Reviews are mostly positive. Karen Burnham at SF Signal loves the character of Green so much that she sometimes resents the plot for putting her in bad situations, and Gategrrl at The Hathor Legacy praises the female characters and relationships. However, to be completely fair and balanced, Kyra Smith at Strange Horizons doesn’t like Green or how the character’s sexuality is presented. I think I’ll be able to take a queer heroine of color in a fantasy novel–in fact, I quite look forward to it!
Green was released June 9.
The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer
A debut so magical… so extraordinary… it has to be read to be believed….
Imprisoned for life aboard a zeppelin that floats high above a fantastic metropolis, the greeting-card writer Harold Winslow pens his memoirs. His only companions are the disembodied voice of Miranda Taligent, the only woman he has ever loved, and the cryogenically frozen body of her father Prospero, the genius and industrial magnate who drove her insane.
The tale of Harold’s life is also one of an alternate reality, a lucid waking dream in which the well-heeled have mechanical men for servants, where the realms of fairy tales can be built from scratch, where replicas of deserted islands exist within skyscrapers.. As Harold’s childhood infatuation with Miranda changes over twenty years to love and then to obsession, the visionary inventions of her father also change Harold’s entire world, transforming it from a place of music and miracles to one of machines and noise. And as Harold heads toward a last desperate confrontation with Prospero to save Miranda’s life, he finds himself an unwitting participant in the creation of the greatest invention of them all: the perpetual motion machine.
Beautifully written, stunningly imagined, and wickedly funny, The Dream of Perpetual Motion is a heartfelt meditation on the place of love in a world dominated by technology.
This novel starts with Prospero offering the children at Miranda’s birthday party their heart’s desires–and Harold says he wants to be a story teller. The idea that Prospero manages to follow through, with all the complications and heartache that ensue, is quite compelling to me. The steampunk element would simply add, I think, to the dreaminess of Harold’s world. Much as I proclaim my maniacal love for plot, this might be as close to an atmospheric read as I’ll get for quite some time.
The only review I’ve been unable to unearth is the Publishers Weekly review that brought it in my sights. The review is glowing, and especially mentions that The Dream of Perpetual Motion is funny. Still, the overly admiring description makes me take pause, but hopefully, it’s simply a case of gilding the lily instead of overselling something. I guess we’ll see next year!
The Dream of Perpetual Motion will be released March 2.