Monthly Archives: February 2010

Steampunk

Have you discovered Steampunk yet?

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction and speculative fiction featuring  elements of fantasy and often set in the Victorian or Edwardian era – late 19th. and early 20th. centuries. It has been influenced by the scientific romances of Jules Verne, H.G.Wells, Mark Twain and Mary Shelley.

For more information check this website.

Current authors writing in this style include Scott Westerfeld, with his new Leviathan series, Philip Reev and the Mortal Engines series and Ian Beck.

      

There is a fabulous trailer of Leviathan on Scott Westerfeld’s blog

The Story – a review

The backdrop of the novel and ensuing trilogy is an alternate history, a history where the Clankers (nickname for the German/Austrian powers) build great war machines of iron and steam.  From 8 legged scout walkers (faintly reminiscent of Star Wars scout troopers) to behemoth land ships and swift Zeppelin airships.  Soon to be pitted against these are the Darwinists(France & England) who have access to an accelerated understanding of evolutionary theory (Darwin apparently discovered genetics).  The Darwinists use genetically  enhanced “fabrications” from  great hulking tiger-wolf hybrids that pull carriages to Hydrogen filled living airships in the shape of whales.

The book begins just before the outbreak of hostilities between the major powers in 1914 and at least one of the main characters is central to those affairs Alek, the son of the assassinated Arch Duke. Alek’s story is one of privileged prince thrown into a life on the run where he must escape to Switzerland, to save his own life and crown.

Running parallel to this is the story of Deryn Sharp, an English girl that masquerades as a boy so that she can join the air service.  She is a midshipman on the Leviathan(hydrogen filled whale airship), despite her obvious skills, she is constantly in fear of being discovered(there are still strong Victorian ideals in Darwinist society) and dismissed.

Their paths collide as the airship sets of to Constantinople on a secret mission, under the direction of a female boffin( Darwinist slang for scientist) Dr Nora Barlow-Darwin. 

It’s an adventure story with a hint at coming of age set against a wonderfully rendered background.  Westerfeld has given us a 1914 that is wildly different in many respects but hauntingly familiar in others, balancing well the need to construct an engaging, altered world with that of not straying too far from the laws of physics or the understandings of science as we currently know them. [Review by Sean the Bloggonaut – check his blog for more about steampunk)

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Visuwords – a useful online dictionary

Do you prefer to learn visually? A dictionary is a useful tool, but can be difficult to follow. Visuwords is an online visual dictionary which graphically represents not  just the meaning of a word, but also its associations with other words and concepts, such as ‘is a kind of’, ‘is a member of’, ‘is opposite to’ etc.  Check this link 

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