19 December 2007

Brilliant in spots, but on the whole, forgettable

The Steampunk Trilogy
Paul Di Filippo
Four Walls Eight Windows, 1997

An interesting if not great book, The Steampunk Trilogy relates three unconnected tales about a quirky, early Victorian world where genetically engineered salamanders reign and where nuclear train engines and "ideoplasm"-powered transdimensional prairie schooners haunt the imagination. DeFilippo's success here is in the details---the fustian prose echoes that of the 19th century, as does the fiery libertine poetry, while the characters never quite lose a certain postmodern knowingness, a glint in the eye as it were.

Alas, he never seems to weave these details into a memorable story. Two days after completing it, and "Hottentots" (the second of the three stories comprising the trilogy) is receding in my memory. The other two stories, "Victoria" and "Walt and Emily," were more compelling, but only marginally so.

Good for checking out of the library or buying from a used-book store.

(This review was originally written on June 15, 2006.)

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