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review 2020-06-03 12:50
'The Gaslight Dogs' by Karin Lowachee
The Gaslight Dogs - Karin Lowachee

In 'The Gaslight Dogs', Karin Lowachee has built a powerful, convincing vision of a world in the throes of a familiar colonial conflict, has populated it with real people who have very little in common except their enforced servitude and then added an original, credible supernatural twist that gives the story its edge.

 

 

The first thing that hit me about 'The Gaslight Dogs' was the quality of the writing. Language here isn't a thin skin stretched over the bones of a clever plot, it's an invitation really to see the world that Karin Lowachee has created, to take in its sights and scents, its beauty and its ugliness with the fresh eyes and nose of a stranger. It's not language designed to get you to the next piece of dialogue or the next action scene as competently as possible. Nor is it purple prose of the over-long self-indulgent guitar solo kind. Its language that says: take the time to take in the place or you will not understand the journey.

 

This story is really two linked journeys, neither of which is voluntary and both of which are shaped by the obsession of a ruthless powerful old man with an insatiable hunger for conquest. We start with Sjennonirk, a young Aniwi spirit walker who is taken in chains from her home in the Arctic and brought south to a city built of brick and lit by gas, where high walls block off the view of the horizon in every direction. Then we meet a Captain Jarrett Fawle, a young man who, uncomfortable and unloved at home, only feels free when leading his men to hunt and kill the aboriginal tribes as part of the push to expand his country's territory. He is sent home on leave and kept there until he complies with his father's will. His father, General Fawle, is the man whose plan for power effectively enslaves both Sjennonirk and Captain Fawle. He sees them both as commodities to be exploited and makes their freedom conditional on meeting his goals.

 

It's easy to see 'The Gaslight Dogs' as a story about the ruthless use of technology by colonial powers to gain territory, to paint a picture of genocide and environmental destruction but I see it as more than that. This isn't a 'good guys stand up to bad guys' kind of story. Nor is it the Star Wars fantasy of brave rebels opposing an evil empire. The power of this story comes from its refusal to move to that Big Picture, Sweep Of History perspective. It stays focused on Sjennonirk and Captain Fawle and the choices that they make. Neither is a hero. Neither wants to be on the journey that General Fawle has sent them on. In their different ways, each just wants to go home. Each of them both representative of and outsiders to their own cultures. Their struggle is not primarily a clash of cultures but of two individuals pushing against their fate.

 

It seemed to me that a lot of this story was about the power of belief. Sjennonirk believes in the power of her ancestral spirits. She feels the little wolf inside her and knows its hunger. Her world view is one of respecting the spirits who, through her and spirit walker like her, protect her people. She is hungry for nothing more than to live at home in peace. She is passive, stoic and pragmatic, except when her wolf wakes.

Captain Fawle is not a believer. He does not believe in the Seven Deities of his people, nor in the destiny of his country, nor in the possibility of being loved by his father. He fills the hole where his belief should be by winning the respect of his men when on the frontier and with alcohol when at home in the city.

 

When 'The Gaslight Dogs' was published in 2010, it was billed as the beginning of the 'Middle Light' series. It works well as a standalone book but I still holding out hope that Karin Lowachee will find the time to come back to this world.

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review 2020-05-25 19:44
Book Review - Gearheart by Maia Strong
GearheartGearheart by Maia Strong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Steampunk meets romance meets lgbtq romance!

I have been a huge fan of Steampunk forever so when I saw there was an lgbtq book I jumped at the chance to read it. I wasn't disappointed.

The story was a good one, the world building was phenomenal. I loved the re-imagining of the world and North American maps. And being a Canadian I loved seeing Canada represented ;-)

The main characters were believable and I felt for them. The tertiary characters were delightful, the villain was a perfectly horrible person. The book itself was a slow build, something that sometimes made it seem to slow the whole book down, but all in all it was a good, solid read.

The plot was engaging, the ending was a happily ever after on multiple fronts. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable read.

View all my reviews

 

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text 2020-05-18 17:46
Reading progress update: I've read 8%. - a strong. confident start
The Gaslight Dogs - Karin Lowachee

The story is going to be told from the point of view of different individuals. So far, I've met two of them and each has its own distinct voice.

 

The writing is lean and powerful, with the imagery changing with the point of view. I think this is going to be a good read.

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text 2020-05-16 09:56
Reading progress update: I've read 2%.
The Gaslight Dogs - Karin Lowachee

That was a dark start. Only a few pages in. We're in the frozen north. Soldiers with guns have arrived. The tribal people are under threat. We've already had the first killing, up close and bloody.

 


This is going to be tense.

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review 2020-04-26 17:00
The Steampunk Trilogy
The Steampunk Trilogy - Paul Di Filippo

by Paul Di Filippo

 

 

This book is comprised of three stories reportedly in the popular Steampunk genre, all written by Paul Di Filippo.

They are decidedly mock-Victorian alternative history, lack any of the attendant steam technology which is the defining factor of Steampunk.

 

I found the first story, Victoria, immediately atmospheric, though some descriptions seemed overly complicated and a few sentences near the beginning were overly long. I soon got involved in the story and established that it is about Queen Victoria and an entity called a 'Hellbender' that might explain some of the conspiracy theorists' speculations that the Royal Family are actually lizard people.

The book displayed a more extensive vocabulary than many modern books exhibit and a rather fantastical plot wherein the Alchemically transformed newt-creature (ala Dr Moreau) impersonates the queen.

There are cameo appearances by such entities as Dickens, Tennyson, Lord Byron and John Ruskin as well as a Parody American character called Nails McGroaty, though the story is mostly from the point of view of Mr. Cosmo Cowperthwait, a tongue-in-cheek version of a Victorian English gentleman who experiments with a method of Uranium based transportation, with predictably disastrous results.

 

The story is rather whimsical, yet most of the research rings true, keeping in mind that liberties have to be taken in Alternative Histories. There is only a time or two when an American term sneaks in to give away the author's nationality. The prolific use of guns also reflects a particularly American attitude.

 

There was a surprising twist near the end of this story and it did hold interest, if not believability. It was actually rather fun.

I didn't quite know what to make of the second story, Hottentots. It is about a rather extremely racist scientist who compares mixed-race breeding with cross-species taxidermy and finds himself dealing with a back woman who has been a side show for nothing more than looking different from the average Caucasian. He refers to "Negroes" and I wasn't sure if the author might be racist or whether he was incredibly brave in creating such an offensive character.

 

He is accompanied by this woman and her husband, an associate of his that has a dodgy mock-Germanic accent as they go on a voyage to find a Fetiche which is supposed to relate to some form of black magic. As Rosicrucians and Satanists were mentioned in the same sentence, followed by a reference to 'Hand of Glory' (from Santeria) and then "Hermetic herbs", bringing Alchemy into the equation, I have to conclude that research about magic for the story was non-existant.

There were cameo appearances by Herman Melville and Darwin, but none of the characters were likable, except perhaps the black woman who seemed to have an amused attitude about it all.

 

The third story, Emily and Walt, involved a relationship between the two poets, Emily Dickenson and Walt Whitman. I'm not overly knowledgeable about the lives of poets, so I don't know if such a liaison could or might have ever taken place. This one also involved not one but two abortions from the hapless Emily Dickenson and a spiritualist quest to seek communication with her unborn children. It was all a bit surreal.

The writing itself is very good, but I found the second and third stories a little disjointed, too obsessed with genitalia, and generally less interesting than the first story, which I quite enjoyed despite the fact that there was not an airship in sight or any form of alternative steam technology that would have justified labeling the book as Steampunk.

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