By Adam Roberts | October 24, 2008
Categories: Short Fiction
Nick Gevers new collection of short fiction is out now from Solaris, and although I have yet to receive my contributor's copy it looks pretty splendid. 'The definitive steampunk collection', you know ... Amazon's search-inside facility gives you, as taster, the start of my friend James Lovegrove's excellent yarn 'Steampunch'. SFX reviewed it without finding space to mention either James L. or myself, so no love to them: but Duncan Lawrie at Strange Horizons, has nice things to say. 'The only element common to all these stories is that they are well-written, clever tales' he says, which is clearly good. Then, after praising the story "Seventy-Two Letters" by the estimable Ted Chiang, he adds:
Similarly Adam Roberts, in "Petrolpunk" (Extraordinary Engines), is addressing current concerns in an inventive fashion, although his protagonists and the structure of his story are as bewildering as Chiang's are disciplined. We are presented with a world where Victoria's Empire, powered by steam technology, spans the earth. However, this steam is vastly polluting due to a Compound which reduces the boiling temperature of water. So far, so steampunk, but invaders from petrol companies in another Reality want this world's unexploited oil reserves ... and Queen Victoria is immortal. The ride gets wilder as the protagonist—one "Adam Roberts"—descends into mania and his story is wrapped up by "the editor of Nineteenth Century and After"—one "Nick Gevers."
Since I was aiming precisely for the trope of immortality as pollution, I take 'bewildering' as a compliment. Plus, Swiftly gets mentioned, which can only be a plus.