Book review · short fiction collection

Book review: Altered America, Steampunk Stories

Altered America: Steampunk Stories, by Cat Rambo

altered-america-coverDescription: (from Goodreads )

Steampunk fans will rejoice in the appearance of Altered America: Steampunk Stories, collecting Nebula and World Fantasy Award-nominated author Cat Rambo’s steampunk fantasies, including “Clockwork Fairies,” “Snakes on a A Train,” and “Her Windowed Eyes, Her Chambered Heart,” into a single book. Rambo’s wry humor, precise and evocative descriptions, and ability to create a world with a few deft touches are showcased in these ten tales.

A review copy (eARC) of this book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

I really like steampunk, both visually and in literature, so when my eyes came upon this cover I was drawn to it. The maps, clock, lettering, even the cat, they all grabbed my intention so I requested this book and was lucky enough to be approved by the publisher! *Thank you* !

I’ve decided to write a little something for each story because I liked some more than others. But they all work really great together as a whole. Plus they each had an author’s afternotes at the end that was really insightful.

While checking other books by Cat Rambo on goodreads I came across the individual cover for that one and I find it really beautiful!

Clockwork Fairies was not my favourite, so I was a little afraid I wouldn’t enjoy this collection. The narrator was a “man of his time” as some would say, or in other words a racist sexist man. The young woman he was after (well they actually are presented as fiancé) was a mixed race inventor that seemed really intelligent and with a great personality. I was bummed that she was not the main character but I soon realised that it was a way to better twist the end and show how she is the real heroine of this story viewed by an external pov.

At first I skipped Rare Pears And Greengages because it started with a rape and then because the characters were not very engaging. But the afternotes made me regret it somehow so when I was done with the collection I came back to it. It was a story of fairies and creatures that come from another world, a world where human tears are currency and fairy fruits are some sort of drug for humans.

Memphis BBQ was the first that made me really excited about this collection. It felt shorter than the others but I liked it a lot and would totally have loved to read an entire novel with this idea. A young man come to the house of the girl he likes -an inventor again- to bring her mother a letter. But while he’s chatting with the mother, the girl and her father who were arguing in front of the house get kidnapped. So he wants to go and save them, and the mother wants to accompany him, with the automatons that she also can control. I felt like the mother was the true hero of this one! Plus, final twist!

Laurel Finch, Laurel Finch, Where Do You Wander? was also amazing! A woman is in a train, heading to her new job. Then a little girl got on the train and an unusual relationship unfold. Zombies, ghouls, necromancy, engineering, fake limb, I won’t say more but that one and Memphis BBG were my favourites!

Snakes On A Train. The snakes here are actually lizard-wizards! The story focuses on a duo of bodyguards composed of Elspeth, a psychic woman who can hear thoughts and senses emotions and Artemus, an automaton. They have to watch over a professor heading to Seattle to help with the War, and his daughter who thoughts cannot be heard by the psychic. But a murder on the train occurs! I really liked the characters of that one and was glad two stories on this collection had them as main characters.

“All of the curiosity of their fellow passengers was directed at him, perhaps the first mechanical being they’d ever seen, with silver and brass skin and curly hair, eyebrows, and moustache of gilded wire.”

Rappaccini’s Crow. “Doctor Rappaccini has a pet crow named Jonah.” That’s the first sentence of that one, and since the raven cycle I loooove pet crows. But in that one, the man and his crow are mean. Still, I love how birds are so so so intelligent and this story recognise that. The setting is of an asylum for war victims and the main character is Native American, transgender and mute (because of a war injury). This story was way sadder and heart-breaking than the others. About the transgender character, I don’t really know if this was well handled in the story but I think it was, according to what I read on the subject. *If you think otherwise please come explain to me why, and I hope I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings!<3*

Her Windowed Eyes, Her Chambered Heart. Back with Elspeth and Artemus! We get more informations on Artemus’s origins and this story focuses more on him than Snakes on a train. In this story they are on the hunt for a fugitive and they tracked him to the house of his late mother, herself an engineer. And the house end up being more than what they thought it was.

Web Of Blood And Iron is a story of werewolves and vampires. It focuses on the servant of a lycanthrope, who is himself a gnome. His master fell in love with a girl –a war correspondent– but as she disappeared, he came looking around vampires to find out what happened to her. This story is set in Europe, where supernatural creatures are way more present than in the States. It features card games and car chase. It was fun but also a little bit sad, with an ending I did not see coming!

Ticktock Girl is about a mechanical woman who sees time differently than humans, build by an English suffragette. She then become some kind of superheroine. A cool thing I loved is how her creator actually call herself her “creatrix”. In the afternotes the author talk about how she wanted to combine two things she loved: steampunk and super-heroes; as I also love both it was a really nice story to read.

“What are you”? he says. “Lady Fortinbras’s mechanical Athena, she says. My directive is to fight evildoers.”

Seven Clockwork Angels, All Dancing On A Pin was a steampunk retelling of Sleeping Beauty! And the (clockwork) cat from the cover appears.

This collection immersed me in an alternate Earth with a war going on in America and suffragettes; filled with magic and supernatural creatures, technology and fine inventions, adventures, sassy characters and girl power. It is 134pages long on my ereader and under 6$/£/€ on amazon! I really had a good time reading those short stories and will check Cato Rambo’s other works out!

(originally posted: 7th August 2016)

3 thoughts on “Book review: Altered America, Steampunk Stories

  1. Aha! I knew you must be the same Lucille from Twitter and Goodreads judging by your great taste in books! 😁 Good to have you over on this side well. There are so many cookies and sausages here!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awwww thanks💛 ahah yeah I also thought keeping the same username for my blog name would be easier for people to recognise me 😅 – I’m still trying to figure out some settings and such but I really like wordpress so far!! Thank you for the welcome:D

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Smart thinking! 😉 Yeah, the settings are a bitch in the beginning (and still at times) but it’s quite fun once you get the hang of it! And the book blogging community is awesome ^^.


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