Steampunk Prime ed by Mike Ashley.
Nonstop Press: NY, 2010.

The current steampunk craze is a part of the alternate history genre. Stories take place in the Victorian era with vehicles and equipment which would have been futuristic then but were never created. A direction in technology that could have been but was not taken.

Steampunk Prime is a collection of stories written in the Victorian period with futuristic settings, though mostly not far in the future. The idea was to extrapolate from emerging technology. Some were written with an excitement for what was to come; others show concern for what technology was causing or might cause. These writers were involved in the beginnings of science fiction, though given the time period, the stories were also somewhat romanticized resulting in a light sci fi mood. There is commentary before each story. Ashley at times refers to well known stories, such as Around the World in Eighty Days and other Jules Verne stories, but includes here the less known.

As with many collections, I like some of the stories better than others. I'm not thrilled about the interplanetary travel, and many of the stories have tragic endings. But there are also some interesting ideas here. Things I have not seen elsewhere. I enjoyed the one that is similar to Sherlock Holmes, written by an author who filled the gap when Arthur Conan Doyle ended his series. There are an attempt to travel through the Earth's core, from pole to pole, and a tunnel project linking Europe and Africa. For the end of the world scenarios, there are a cooling sun and an overuse of electricity ending in conflagration. A chess playing automaton threatens the career of a champ, and an automaton with a personality escapes from its maker.

related-steampunk, alternate history, interplanetary travel and relations, technology - breakthroughs and consequences, end of the world

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