steampunk books

Steampunk Books

by Mrignayni Pandey
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Steampunk books
Steampunk books

A sub-genre of science fiction or science fantasy, steampunk books have been resurfaced in its popularity again. Their inception has come come to be associated with cyberpunk books. The term is inspired by industrial steam powered machinery of the 19th century. It refers to the era where steam power in still in prominence (i.e. the Victorian era) and technological inventions are gaining momentum. Technology and aesthetic designs inspired from steam run machinery are a part of steampunk stories. The world in the story usually has maintained stem’s usage or makes use of the potential of steam.

Let’s have a quick look at what google trends say about steampunk books!

Google trends
Google trends on the literary genre of steampunk books

Oh, the graph tells you a story of its own! So many people are searching for it, ain’t it?

Alright then! Without further ado,let’s get to discussing the top 24- steampunk books that we must be reading!

24.Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon

against the day

In Chicago World’s Fair, a fearless bunch of balloonists will record their adventures from the labor troubles in Colarado and a slew of other issues from London to New York, Silberia, Central Asia, Venice and Vienna.

It all begins in 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair, with an intrepid crew of young balloonists whose storybook adventures will bookend, interrupt, and sometimes even be read by, scores of somewhat more realistic characters over the next 30 years.

Spanning the period between the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, this novel moves from the labour troubles in Colorado to turn-of-the-century New York, to London, Venice and Vienna, the Balkans, Central Asia, Siberia at the time of the mysterious Tunguska Event, Mexico during the revolution, postwar Paris, silent-era Hollywood and one or two places not strictly speaking on the map at all.’

Over at the Pynchon-L internet mailing list, the lid comes off. The subscribers, hardcore textual stalkers to a man (there seems to be only one female subscriber), some of whom have been discussing the finer points of the oeuvre for years, go into overdrive.

Knotty, paunchy, nutty, raunchy, Pynchon’s first novel since Mason & Dixon (1997) reads like half a dozen books duking it out for his, and the reader’s, attention. The best of steampunk books, shine with a surreal incandescence, but even Pynchon fans may find their fealty tested now and again. Yet just when his recurring themes threaten to become tics, this perennial Nobel bridesmaid engineers another never-before-seen phrase, or effect, and all but the most churlish resistance collapses

-Publisher’s Weekly

23.Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter

infernal devices and steampunk books

Musician George has little talent for watchmaking. And indubitably he finds his head in the clouds when he inherits his father’s watch shop. But more so, because he had no clues of what his father did in the shop behind closed doors. In Victorian England, George suddenly finds himself helping a 20th century American and putting his brains to fix a strange watch, which is claimed to be made by his father. On top of all of this, the clockwork human that his father had built is abducted and he has no clues no how he will get out of the situation.

I loved this steampunk book, given my penchant for Victoriana, and also because of Jeter’s colorful characterizations, superb plotting, and luminescent writing style, which recalls that of Blaylock. What’s more, humor abounds, especially in the character of Scape, and in the irresistable ending, which is too good to be true.

– J. Michael Caparula

22.Mortal Engines by Philip Reeves

mortal engines

Set in a post apocalyptic world that is dilapidated by nuclear warfare, this steampunk story talks about a world where cities move in vehicles called Traction cities. Not just that, the earth has reached a stage where the cities consume one another to survive because all natural resources have been exhausted. Member of London’s Guild of Historians, 15 year old Tom has come to know of a massively powerful weapon which he wasn’t supposed to know. Now everybody is hunting to kill him.

Reeve’s prose is sweeping and cinematic. He deftly weaves in social commentary on the perils of both war and consumerism.

-Publisher’s Weekly

21.Agatha H and the Airship City- The Genius Girl Novels by Phil & Kaja Foglio

agatha h and airship city in steampunk books

Agatha Clay has nothing feels that she has nothing but bad luck. She isn’t able to build anything that can actually work and seems her bleak future as a lab assistant. The Industrial Revolution has soared into all-out warfare. It is now being ruled by cabals of lost-headed scientists who terrorize everyone with their uncanny inventions and unchecked power. When Clay’s university is overthrown by tyrant Baron Klaus Wulfenbach and she is prisoner in his massive airship, it finally seems that she can use her mad science there.

If Jules Verne had written comics, he wouldn’t have written Girl Genius. He would have been jealous of it, though.

-Comics Buyer’s Guide

20.The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling

The differnce engine and steampunk books

The Difference Engine was actually the book that helped establish the genre of steampunk books. The story is about Victorian era Britain where technological adavacement revolutionises the world after Charles Babbage has successfully his “difference engine” (the Ananlytical engine)

This collaborative effort from William Gibson and Bruce Sterling (the only to date) is a prime example of the ‘Steampunk’ genre and a bold, imaginative ‘alternate history’ novel.

– Fantasy Book Reviews

19.The Little Ships, by J.A. Sutherland

The Little ships is much talked about in the genre of steampunk books. I haven’t personally read the book, but here’s a summary of the book, I found from goodreads!

The Little ships

Newly commissioned lieutenant, Alexis Carew is appointed into HMS Shrewsbury, a 74-gun ship of the line in New London’s space navy. She expects Shrewsbury will be sent into action in the war against Hanover, but instead she finds that she and her new ship are pivotal in a Foreign Office plot to bring the star systems of the French Republic into the war and end the threat of Hanover forever.

18.Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker

Famous for her Gothic horror novels, Cherie Priest’s steampunk book is an equally delightful read. Dr. Blue’s praiseworthy bone-shaking drill engine was created for Russians to mine Alaska’s ice in response to rumors of its presence in the Pacific. But the machine, unlike anticipated wrecks havoc by destroying Seattle and exposing a vein of blight gas that turns those into living deads. The inventor is blamed for the tragedy and his son, in a frenzy to clear his father’s name, dares to enter a sealed off section of the city. Her mother is forced to follow him in an obligatory airship.

 Intelligent, exceptionally well written and showcasing a phenomenal strong female protagonist who embodies the complexities inherent in motherhood, this yarn is a must-read for the discerning steampunk book fans.

-Publisher’s Weekly

17.Automatic Woman by Nathan Yocum

Automatic Women and steampunk books

Jolly Fellows is assigned the task to investigate about the missing robotic ballerina. Having never done such a task and limited by his experience of catching theifs, Jolly has to lace up his boots for the task. Has the robotic ballerina gone missing or is it done to trick him into deep waters? As Jolly gets his head in the chase, he gets falsely charged with murder. Now there is much more at stake than just a robetic dancer.

If you enjoy murder mysteries in steampunk books and don’t mind a nit of gore, you’ll might enjoy this one. It’s got the fighting, the thugs (Jolly is one himself) and the bosses who pull their strings, making them dance to their own personal tune.

16.The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The invention of Hugo Cabret

Hugo is trying his best to stay out of a Parisian orphanage by fixing clocks on the Paris train station. His only hope is an automaton that he and his father had been working on before his death from fire. His uncle had disappeared soon after. Adamant to do something to fix the automaton, he dares to steal some tools from the station’s toy maker. But when the toy maker goes beyond just harrasing him for the crime, Hugo is forced to dig deeper. A number of secrets connecting the toy maker and the machine are left to be answered.

Here is a true masterpiece—an artful blending of narrative, illustration and cinematic technique, for a steampunk story as tantalizing as it is touching.

-Publisher’s Weekly

15.Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina

Lady of Devices  and steampunk books

London, 1889. Victoria is Queen. Charles Darwin’s son is Prime Minister. And steam is the power that runs the world. At 17, Claire Trevelyan, daughter of Viscount St. Ives, was expected to do nothing more than pour an elegant cup of tea, sew a fine seam, and catch a rich husband. Unfortunately, Claire’s talents lie not in the ballroom, but in the chemistry lab, where things have a regrettable habit of blowing up. When her father gambles the estate on the combustion engine and loses, Claire finds herself down and out on the mean streets of London. But being a young woman of resources and intellect, she turns fortune on its head. It’s not long before a new leader rises in the underworld, known only as the Lady of Devices . . . When she meets Andrew Malvern, a member of the Royal Society of Engineers, she realizes her talents may encompass more than the invention of explosive devices. They may help her realize her dreams and his . . . if they can both stay alive long enough to see that sometimes the closest friendships can trigger the greatest betrayals . . .

“What a relief this volume is. One of those steampunk books without zombies. An amusing, touching, steam-exhausting, Crystal-Palacing romp.” 

—Timons Esaias

14.Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein and steampunk books

Acclaimed to be the first science fiction novel, Frankenstine or The Modern Prometheus is a blend of the elements of biopunk and steampunk books in the genre of science fiction. The Story of young scientist Victor Frankenstein who uses his knowledge to create monster Frankenstein, it is a classic of all times. Victor is horrified at the sight of what he created, and falls into a feverish illness when the monster kills his brother and takes the life of his housekeeper because she gets falsely convicted for the former. Even his best friend is killed by the monster in revenge for his refusal to create a female companion monster for him. The monster then goes about killing Victor’s bride and his father dies of the shock. Victor then resolves to chase the monster and kill it but dies of ill heath too soon with his last words that “one must find happiness in tranquillity and avoid ambition” . But the monster is grief stricken and realizes what he did. At the end, he decides to kill himself so that no one could know of his existence.

13.The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The golden compass

Lyra’s best friend Roger is being kidnapped by the Gobblers and its rumored that they carry out experiments on children. Lyra has decide to go to the Nar North in search for him where her unruly uncle is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world. Though it appears an audacious attempt to help someone in need, Lyra doesn’t know that helping one of them means betraying the other.

Masterwork in steampunk books of storytelling and suspense.

– Publisher’s Weekly

12.Soulless, by Gail Carriger

Soulless

Paranormal creatures have infiltrated London and are creating chaos. Alexia is disturbed by the turn of events. She is a soulless women living a happy life there. Her lack of a soul gives her the faculty to wrest the powers of other supernatural creatures creating trouble. When she is mobbed by an unruly vampire, she uses it and accidently sends him biting the dust. Queen Victoria is displeased and Alexia is being cornered by Maccon, Queen Victoria’s hired werewolf. It is now left to Alexia to save the city and herself when everybody nobody seems to give her the benefit the doubt.

This intoxicatingly witty parody will appeal to a wide cross-section of romance, fantasy and steampunk fans.

11.Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork angel and steampunk books

Tessa Gray has entered London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She is lonely in the dangerous place of demons, warlocks and vampires, all a part of the dangerous Pandemonium Club she has to fight, except for her two friends Will and Jem, whom she loves. The enemy forces are dethrown the British Empire with their unstoppable clockwork creatures and it is left to Tessa to save them all.

Mysteries, misdirection, and riddles abound, and while there are some gruesome moments, they never feel gratuitous. Fans of the steampunk books, Mortal Instruments series and newcomers alike won’t be disappointed.

-Publisher’s Weekly

10.Storming: A Dieselpunk Adventure, by K.M. Weiland

Storming: a diselpunk adventure

Jael accidentally finds a wing walker for his struggling airshow. The young woman will transform brash pilot Robert’s life. She asks to drop her back to the sky. Robert does not believe her until his plane is caught midst of a storm and bangs it with an airship that could control the weather. Caught in a catch 22 situation to drop Jael home before she escapes with his freewheeling heart and fighting storm yielding sky pirates, Jael has to make it to a happy ending.

Dropping (literally) dieselpunk fantasy elements smack into the middle of an action adventure story revolving around a biplane pilot set in 1920s historical fiction was a brilliant idea. This steampunk novel is a joy to read!

—Suzan Robertson

9.The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

the anubis gates and steampunk books

In 1801 London, a crew of Egyptian High priests invoke demons and let them loose in London, bringing the city to a standstill. The Egyptian magicians form an alliance with a band of beggars and a girl against Professor Brendan Doyle, a connoisseur in the works of nineteenth century poet William Ashbless.. Doyle has agreed to a millionaire’s request to act as a guide for time travelling tourists. He is stranded and caught by the enemies who the gates in time. Caught up in the difficult situation, he learns some unknown facts about Ashbless that leave him shaken.

The Anubis Gates is the real thing, a classic which no doubt spawned many imitations.

All in all, a tour de force. Skip the used bookstores for this one – go out and buy a new copy today!

-Publisher’s Weekly

8.Beneath London: A Tale of Langdon St. Ives, by James P. Blaylock

Beneath London: a tale of Langdon

The collapse of the Victoria Embankment uncovers a passage to an unknown realm beneath the city. Langdon St. Ives sets out to explore it, not knowing that a brilliant and wealthy psychopathic murderer is working to keep the underworld’s secrets hidden for reasons of his own. St. Ives and his stalwart friends investigate a string of ghastly crimes: the gruesome death of a witch, the kidnapping of a blind, psychic girl, and the grim horrors of a secret hospital where experiments in medical electricity and the development of human, vampiric fungi, serve the strange, murderous ends of perhaps St. Ives’s most dangerous nemesis yet.

-Goodreads summary of the book:)

7.The Time Machine by H. G. Wells 

The time machine and steampunk books

Time Machine is the book that made Wells the father of science fiction. Wells sends his protagonist to face a future crubling against our highest hopes and darkest fears. In the age of slow dying earth, there are two races -the ethereal Eloi and the subterranean Morlocks. They signify the duality of human nature and offer a terryifyning potrayal of future men on the earth.

The novel is a class fable, as well as a scientific parable, in which the two societies of Wells’s own period (the upper classes and the “lower orders”) are recast as equally, though differently, “degenerate” beings. “Degeneration” is evolution in reverse, while Wells’s dystopic vision in The Time Machine is a deliberate debunking of the utopian fictions of the late nineteenth century, in particular William Morris’s News from Nowhere. Where Morris depicts a pastoral, socialist utopia, Wells represents a world in which the human struggle is doomed to failure.

-Britannica reviews

6.Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne 

The world nations spot a mysterious sea monster and led by the United States government set out to destroy it. Much to everyone’s surprise, it is discovered that the sea monster is actually a submarine that is far ahead of its time.

5.The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist

The dream eaters

A cabal of villians have resolved to rob people of their memories and turn them to glass. When Miss Temple fiance horrifically decided to estrange their marriage over a piece of note, she can’t take it. Determined to find out what changed the mind of his love, she sets on a harrowing quest to uncover the truth. She is taken aback to find out that the sinister cabal has taken control of her husband’s mind and are using his past, memeories and experiences. Still worse, they plan to take over the country’s top brass and eventually, the world.

Dahlquist introduces so many characters, props and plot twists, near-death experiences and narrow escapes that the novel has the feel of a frantic R-rated classic comic book—if comics were arch.

-Publisher’s Weekly

4.The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

the alchemy of stone and steampunk books

Have you seen romance, politics and alchemy come together in steampunk books?

Well, here you will!

Sedia’s story is about the brilliant automaton, Mattie, dexterous in the use of alchemy. The Mechanic Loharri who created her, still has the key to her heart and could control her. The conflict of the story comes when Mattie discovers some secrets that can shift the balance of power in the city of Ayona and this does not sit well with Mattie. Mattoie now has to survive the trails and the scare.

3.Homunculus by James P. Blaylock

Homonculus

A dirigible is revolving over Victorian London in a decaying orbit for quite some years. St. Ives and Shiloh set out to see what the dirigble. Shiloh is certain that the spaceship carries his dead father, a space alien but chooses to be reticent about it from vivisectionist Dr. Ignacio Narbondo. He is paying him to reanimate his mother, Joanna Southcott! Devilish narbondo and millionaire Kelso Drake has their own interests in the alien and Shiloh is now alone in the battle.

The universe is marvellous, the characters even greater. Just a small stress again: Langdon St. Ives and Ignacio Narbondo’s character are just so grand in the way they display the gentlemanly English fashion and the stereotypical good guy / bad guy behaviour. This steampunk series is great stuff.

-Publisher’s Weekly

2.Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

Perdido street station

Intense, evocative prose set in the city of New Crobuzon, Mieville’s story is one of the most masterful works in the collection of biopunk books. Crobuzon is crested beneath the towering ribs of an ancient dead beast that has eerie characters like Bohemians, insectoid people and even a grub that metamorphosed into a giant slakemoth. The central character of the story is scientist Issac. He is approached by a (half-bird, half-human creature) Garuda who wants something scientifically daunting. Despite the odds, Issac takes a plunge into the unknown, sparked by his uncanny reverence for the creature. But little does he know that the mutation will evoke an unspeakable terror that cannot be fixed even by the Ambassador of Hell!

Mixture of biopunk, steampunk , fantasy and horror, this is one of those sweeping and jaw-dropping epics that you will have never wanted to come to the end!

1.Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan and steampunk books

In an alternative version of World War I, the “Clankers” (the Central Power) and the Darwinists (the  Entente Powers) are at war with each other. The Clankers use mechanized war machines against the darwinists who fabricate living creatures genetically as their weaponry. Prince Aleksander, the would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne has been betrayed by his own people and is running from the kingdom with his handful of loyal-trustworthy men. Deryn Sharp, the brilliant British airman has disguised herself as a boy and lives in terror of being caught. With the ruputuring of world war I, their paths meet and changes their life forever.

One of the classics, which combines the steampunk (steam machinery) and biopunk (DNA fabrication) genres, the book is inimitable in presenting an alternate history in the genre of steampunk books!

Did you enjoy reading the list of steampunk books? Did I miss any of your favorite steampunk book? Do let me know in the comment section below! I would love to hear from you!

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