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A startling, seductive literary novel that entwines suspense, science fiction, adventure, romance and history into an intoxicating new genre. 1908: New Venice--"the pearl of the Arctic"--a place of ice palaces and pneumatic tubes, of beautifully ornate carriage-sleds and elegant victorian garb, of long nights and vistas of ice. But as the city prepares for spring, it feels m A startling, seductive literary novel that entwines suspense, science fiction, adventure, romance and history into an intoxicating new genre. 1908: New Venice--"the pearl of the Arctic"--a place of ice palaces and pneumatic tubes, of beautifully ornate carriage-sleds and elegant victorian garb, of long nights and vistas of ice. But as the city prepares for spring, it feels more like qaartsiluni, "the time when something is about to explode in the dark." Local "poletics" are wracked by tensions with the Eskimos circling the city, with suffragette riots led by an underground music star, with drug round-ups by the secret police force known as the Gentlemen of the Night. An ominous black airship hovers over the city, and the Gentlemen are hunting for the author of a radical pamphlet calling for revolt. Their lead suspect is Brentford Orsini, one of the city's most prominent figures. But as the Gentlemen of the Night tighten the net around him, Orsini receives a mysterious message from a long-lost love that compels him to act. What transpires is a literary adventure novel unlike anything you've ever read before. Brilliant in its conception, masterful in its prose, thrilling in its plot twists, and laced with humor, suspense, and intelligence, it marks the beginning of a great new series of books set in New Venice-and the launch of an astonishing new writer.


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A startling, seductive literary novel that entwines suspense, science fiction, adventure, romance and history into an intoxicating new genre. 1908: New Venice--"the pearl of the Arctic"--a place of ice palaces and pneumatic tubes, of beautifully ornate carriage-sleds and elegant victorian garb, of long nights and vistas of ice. But as the city prepares for spring, it feels m A startling, seductive literary novel that entwines suspense, science fiction, adventure, romance and history into an intoxicating new genre. 1908: New Venice--"the pearl of the Arctic"--a place of ice palaces and pneumatic tubes, of beautifully ornate carriage-sleds and elegant victorian garb, of long nights and vistas of ice. But as the city prepares for spring, it feels more like qaartsiluni, "the time when something is about to explode in the dark." Local "poletics" are wracked by tensions with the Eskimos circling the city, with suffragette riots led by an underground music star, with drug round-ups by the secret police force known as the Gentlemen of the Night. An ominous black airship hovers over the city, and the Gentlemen are hunting for the author of a radical pamphlet calling for revolt. Their lead suspect is Brentford Orsini, one of the city's most prominent figures. But as the Gentlemen of the Night tighten the net around him, Orsini receives a mysterious message from a long-lost love that compels him to act. What transpires is a literary adventure novel unlike anything you've ever read before. Brilliant in its conception, masterful in its prose, thrilling in its plot twists, and laced with humor, suspense, and intelligence, it marks the beginning of a great new series of books set in New Venice-and the launch of an astonishing new writer.

30 review for Aurorarama

  1. 4 out of 5

    karen

    enough time has passed that i feel okay about linking to the review i wrote for this over at the brooklyn rail: https://brooklynrail.org/2010/10/book... but i do not feel okay about those comma-typos that SOMEONE ELSE must have inserted. *********************************************** i wrote a review for this, already, for another source - michael isn't the only one who can cuckold a website! but so i haven't really wanted to write a whole new review, but i didn't think it was seemly to cut and p enough time has passed that i feel okay about linking to the review i wrote for this over at the brooklyn rail: https://brooklynrail.org/2010/10/book... but i do not feel okay about those comma-typos that SOMEONE ELSE must have inserted. *********************************************** i wrote a review for this, already, for another source - michael isn't the only one who can cuckold a website! but so i haven't really wanted to write a whole new review, but i didn't think it was seemly to cut and paste the one i already wrote. and that blank spot has been tormenting me with its blankness... so i gotta write something. as a physical object, this book is gorgeous. and like anything gorgeous, it isn't going to give you its number at the end of the night. not unless you work little for it first. but it can be exhausting. i am not a reader of science fiction, and the exhaustively-detailed world-building elements just rattled me. i went in thinking, "oh, polar bears, cool..." and it was just a barrage of information that i felt the book expected me to know already. it was like one of those anxiety-dreams where you are taking a test in a subject you know nothing about. this book just kind of hucks you into a world that is kind of like our world, but when and how and huh? it is arctic and quasi-steampunk but also not at the same time. confused? yeah, me too. and eventually some of the mythology is exposed (but slooooowly) but in the meantime there are foppish men and polar greenhouses, indigenous inuits and white interlopers, sexified nightclubs and menacing airships and a polar kangaroo and a caste of waste management workers in plague masks. also shamans and more commercial magicians and revolutionaries and a corrupt council and snow and drugs and a freaking duke and a conjoined, hermaphroditic love-object. ghosts and zombies round out the cast just for good measure. i mean, wow. this ain’t your momma’s robert peary. so, i will probably read the other two books when they come out, because i am very attracted to the pretty covers, i just hope i can get to second base this time. hey, pictures!! come to my blog!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Oriana

    The bookgods are sometimes so good to me: I found this book (which I've been wanting to read forever) in a box on the curb near my apartment—a box which was otherwise full of computer coding manuals and broken picture frames and ugly shoes. I sometimes think that Brooklyn really wants me to read good things? Maybe that's an overly charitable view, but I don't care; optimism is my superpower. So anyway, Aurorarama. This book was nothing like I expected. It's a plot that would absolutely laugh at s The bookgods are sometimes so good to me: I found this book (which I've been wanting to read forever) in a box on the curb near my apartment—a box which was otherwise full of computer coding manuals and broken picture frames and ugly shoes. I sometimes think that Brooklyn really wants me to read good things? Maybe that's an overly charitable view, but I don't care; optimism is my superpower. So anyway, Aurorarama. This book was nothing like I expected. It's a plot that would absolutely laugh at synopsizing, but it takes place at the turn of the century in New Venice, a sprawling city in Antarctica that is on the brink of total social revolution. This is in part because of relations between the whites and the Inuits, in part because of a very well-dressed but quite repressive government, in part because of a series of bizarre prophesies on which the city was founded and which are about to come true (or not) in very strange ways, in part because drugs, in part because anarchists, in part because or decadence and classism and puritanism. Here are some of the things you'll find in these 500+ pages: * Russian anarchists in a zeppelin dropping in like some kind of Deus ex machina * zombies (maybe) * sex with hermaphrodite Siamese twins * a song so powerful it can structurally destroy a building * a prophetic ghost who makes the men who find her brush her hair before she will prophess * a trip to the North Pole gone hideously awry * an orgy teepee where you do it on ice blocks * a whole class of "scavengers" who wear beaked, beaded masks at all times * some incredible, incredibly intense descriptions of hallucinogens * a sexy pop singer reborn as a political agitator * a polar kangaroo god-like thing that saves people's lives (mystically) Oh, I could go on. And on. The strongest similarity I can come up with is with Against the Day—and believe me, I do not make a Pynchon comparison lightly. But this book really has the same feel, that 19th-century strangeness told through vivid detailing, plus the same enmeshed fullness, where plot strands have been so deftly connected and exhaustively compiled that you know you are in the presence of sheer genius, plus the same scope, where you meet and learn about so so so many characters, and not just their name and one of their outfits, but their lineage and some identifying childhood stories and their vernacular and who they last had sex with. Plus it has the same soaring sense of brilliant glee that I feel with Pynchon, where random characters break into song for five pages, or a magic act is described in the most exaggerated minutia for an entire chapter, or a gibbering band of marauding maniacs decide to put on a play just for the sheer hilarity of it. Plus, plus, plus. I don't mean to make this sound derivative, because it is definitely not. It's just a very very brilliant book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Olivier Delaye

    Aurorarama is set in the city of New Venice, a marvel of architecture built in the Arctic in which steampunk technology prevails, crazy mind-altering drugs are tolerated and enjoyed by many, and dreams are sold as commodities to citizens in search of escapism and good times. At first blush, one might think that all is well in this Utopia on Ice, that nothing untoward could possibly happen. Not so. Revolution is afoot and, as far as I’m concerned, what shape this revolution will take is anybody’s Aurorarama is set in the city of New Venice, a marvel of architecture built in the Arctic in which steampunk technology prevails, crazy mind-altering drugs are tolerated and enjoyed by many, and dreams are sold as commodities to citizens in search of escapism and good times. At first blush, one might think that all is well in this Utopia on Ice, that nothing untoward could possibly happen. Not so. Revolution is afoot and, as far as I’m concerned, what shape this revolution will take is anybody’s guess. How so? Well, I’m sorry but this is a DNF for me. After reaching the halfway mark, I threw it down in disgust. I won’t go into detail here, but there is only so much sexism and political proselytism one person can take, and I think I’ve reached my limit. Which is a shame, because the world-building in this book is pretty amazing and I really wanted to explore more of New Venice. That’s not gonna happen, though.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Liviu

    Described as "Jules Verne on drugs" with some justification, the book takes place in the fictional city of New Venice 450 miles from the N. Pole - "putting ice back in Ven*ice* " is one of the many wonderful plays on language in the book; literate, funny, a sort of "icepunk" alt-history with sex and drugs. Will add the full review tbd soon, but for now I would say that this is the best sf I've read in 2010 (full FBC rv below) INTRODUCTION: "1908: New Venice--"the pearl of the Arctic"--a place of Described as "Jules Verne on drugs" with some justification, the book takes place in the fictional city of New Venice 450 miles from the N. Pole - "putting ice back in Ven*ice* " is one of the many wonderful plays on language in the book; literate, funny, a sort of "icepunk" alt-history with sex and drugs. Will add the full review tbd soon, but for now I would say that this is the best sf I've read in 2010 (full FBC rv below) INTRODUCTION: "1908: New Venice--"the pearl of the Arctic"--a place of ice palaces and pneumatic tubes, of beautifully ornate carriage-sleds and elegant victorian garb, of long nights and vistas of ice. But as the city prepares for spring, it feels more like qaartsiluni, "the time when something is about to explode in the dark." Local "poletics" are wracked by tensions with the Eskimos circling the city, with suffragette riots led by an underground music star, with drug round-ups by the secret police force known as the Gentlemen of the Night. An ominous black airship hovers over the city, and the Gentlemen are hunting for the author of a radical pamphlet calling for revolt. Their lead suspect is Brentford Orsini, one of the city's most prominent figures. But as the Gentlemen of the Night tighten the net around him, Orsini receives a mysterious message from a long-lost love that compels him to act." Despite our monthly spotlights in which we try to showcase the most interesting sff, I would have missed "Aurorarama", if not for its inclusion in Jeff Vandermeer' extended list about which I have talked recently. After the exciting blurb above and the extended excerpt available from Amazon, this was a buy/read on the spot and it turned out to be even better than I expected and it's possibly the best sf I've read so far in 2010, though it should appeal to both fantasy and literary readers for its wealth of material and beautiful style. FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: "Aurorarama" stands at about 415 pages and is divided into three parts and 30 chapters, all interestingly named which adds value to the novel. There is a prologue which bears rereading later once you understand its meaning and an epilogue that nicely concludes the tale, though the way is clear for more books in this superb milieu imagined by the author. Each chapter starts with appropriate quotes related to the Arctic and the novels has several pictures that are both beautiful and illustrate well scenes from the novel in true Vernian spirit. Aurorarama is modern speculative fiction at its best; an "ice punk" adventure in an alt-history setting. While a standalone that concludes perfectly its threads, Aurorarama is intended to kick-start a series based on New Venice and based on the quality of this one, any new volume will be a top anticipated book of mine. OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: "Aurorarama" alternates by chapters POV's from its two main heroes. "Duke" Brentford Orsini is a scion of New Venice "articocracy" with a leading position in the Administration of the City as the Gardner-General of the Greenhouses & Glass Gardens. New Venice is under the real control of the Council of Seven established by the founding fathers, the Seven "Sleepers" whose bodies are supposedly cryogenically preserved to return in case of dire need. And the Council is moving toward autocracy and ignoring the Utopian roots of New Venice; there are even rumors that the Council intends to crack hard on the Inuit and get into the export drug trade. "Whereas the Council was supposed to keep intact the utopian ideals of the Seven Sleepers who had founded the city, it was now more than ever involved in all matters of business with the “Friends” who funded it, and these Friends had themselves increasingly turned from philanthropists into shareholders who wanted a return on their investments. The Administration, which had originally been devoted to the practicalities of running a city at a latitude that was anything but reasonable, had meanwhile—and Brentford was one of the main actors in this conversion—evolved toward a faithfulness to the first principles that was at times somewhat fanatical. " "Earl" Gabriel (Lancelot) dAllier (de St-Antoine) is also a member of the articocracy and friend of Brentford since college, but in contrast to the still rich and important Orsinis, he inherited mostly debts from his father. Needing a paycheck, he moonlights as literature professor at the local Doges College with an interest in recreational drugs, weird music and younger girls like some of his students whom he prefers to "bed than corrupt" in his own memorable words from later in the book.... Alas, the Council's new puritanical direction - for a long time drugs were regarded as vital in New Venice both as survival tools and in the Transpherence process the articocracy used to preserve memories between generations, while casual sex was encouraged in places like the (in)famous Ingersarvik swapping den based on Eskimo customs - means that Gabriel is vulnerable to blackmail from the secret police... All because a "seditious" pamphlet that the Council says it calls for revolution and its overturn - "A Blast on the Barren Land" has just been published and pretty much everyone in the know believes Brentford wrote it, while Gabriel contributed too. Since Brentford is too important and well connected - he is even respected by Captain-General Frank Mason, the New Venice 2000 strong army commander, not to speak of his ties with the powerful Scavenger guild, the "middle class" shopkeepers, the bohemian artists and the native Inuits - the Council cannot charge him without hard proof, so the Gentlemen of the Night in the person of obnoxious Sealtiel Wynne and sidekicks are dispatched to put pressure on Gabriel to confess and rat on Brentford. To top it all, a mysterious black airship has been hovering above New Venice for a while, a sled with an elderly dead woman holding a mirror that spells "Lancelot" has just been found, Brentford is busy planning his upcoming wedding with singer/performer Sybil Springfield while receiving a prophetic dream from former (presumed dead) flame Sandy Lake for a North Pole rendezvous on March 1st that may portend great changes and Gabriel is busy falling for troubled student Phoebe and later magician assistant Stella... So, why would you read Aurorarama? For me the answer started with the blurb - very interesting setting and great story potential - and continued with the excerpt since I really liked the author style: literate, full of language plays as well as of literary allusions and showing the author's command of the English language and both of Arctic expeditions and their novelistic renderings. But also clear and a page turner once you get in the flow of the action, so Aurorarama was relatively a fast read, though I felt compelled to read it again twice both to fully appreciate its finer points and because I wanted to spend more time in its wonderful milieu. What made it so memorable though were the characters of Brentford and Gabriel as well as the many supporting ones that come out vividly and enrich the novel. The idealistic Brentford and the jaded, but still somewhat naive Gabriel come alive from the first chapters and the reader cannot help but care for them even when things seem to be at their bleakest. The atmosphere of the novel is exquisite - and I use "atmosphere" rather than "world building" since Aurorarama is definitely not hard sf, so things are hinted and there are mentions of various aspects that make New Venice and more generally year-round life on the N. 80th parallel possible, but nothing is spelled out in say Baxterian detail. So in that sense Aurorarama is a clear Vernian successor, rather than a Wellsian one. There is intrigue, action, ice travels, prophetic dreams, occasionally somewhat explicit sex and drugs and just pure fun - there is a scene in which Gabriel is interrogated under supposedly infallible hypnosis that epitomizes the pure fun part of the novel and made me laugh out loud even of third read. Here is Gabriel mocking the secret policeman and his henchmen who supposedly have him under hypnotic control: “Mr. d’Allier, there is one thing we would like to know above all others. Would you please tell us what or whom A Blast on the Barren Land evokes for you?” A flurry of images gushed forth in his brain. Whatever they were, they would have to do. “Flap,” said Gabriel, after a pause, not without surprise. “Who?” “Flap.” “Who is Flap, Mr. d’Allier?” “Flap is … a friend.” “Where did you meet him?” “Her. I met her in the Greenhouse in Grönland Gardens. I took a path that I thought would take me out of the hothouse but did not. It kept on, it seemed forever. At some point, I fell asleep under a tree. And after a while, I woke up, feeling a fresh sensation below the waist, and Flap was over me.” “Over you?” said Wynne, in a faltering voice. “Over me. Yes. I opened my eyes, and I saw her. She was rather cute but a bit on the chubby side, with little dragonfly wings on her back. I asked her who she was and what she thought she was doing. ‘I’m Flap the Fat Fairy,’ she said, ‘and human **** is like honey to me.’ Then she spat something on my belly and flew away. I reached to see what she had spat and it was a little heart-shaped ice crystal she had kept in her mouth all the time. It immediately attracted two little elves or fairies on my belly, who were commenting on my withering ‘snowdrop’" "Aurorarama" (A++ and possibly best sf of 2010 for me) is fun, compelling and full of gems; the biggest positive surprise for me in sf for 2010 though as noted above, the novel should appeal to both fantasy and literary fans for its many aspects and superb style.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    Non-steam steampunk? I believe Valtat calls his genre Teslapunk perhaps because so much depends on early and revolutionary use of electricity. Would it be too gauche to suggest that the emperor has no clothes? Valtat is an award-winning French science fiction author. This story, written in English, is praised by all the right and right-minded people, but all I can think is “I can’t believe I read the whole thing.” Did they? Undoubtedly Valat had fun twisting the words and ideas. If he couldn’t fin Non-steam steampunk? I believe Valtat calls his genre Teslapunk perhaps because so much depends on early and revolutionary use of electricity. Would it be too gauche to suggest that the emperor has no clothes? Valtat is an award-winning French science fiction author. This story, written in English, is praised by all the right and right-minded people, but all I can think is “I can’t believe I read the whole thing.” Did they? Undoubtedly Valat had fun twisting the words and ideas. If he couldn’t find an obscure word or alliteration, he invented one. The plots are lost among the world building until last hundred pages. Many readers won’t survive the frozen first hundred. The principal antagonists’ inner voices sound alike. You can only tell them apart because one was always indulging in this or that drug or sexual liaison. No point in identifying technical errors; it’s all fantasy. Quibble: Does Valtat realize that at longitude 90 degrees north latitude becomes irrelevant? Why not one star? Because it is a great concept. And Valtat has his funny moments. Some people apparently like it. But they probably insist the emperor was clothed.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    The reason people are having trouble reading this is because it isn't very good. It was okay for a fun novel of weird things happening, but this was sold to us as a "literary adventure." I think it aspired to be one, what with all it's quotes of uncertain origin and fancy Inuit words all over the place, but it didn't quite make it. The characters are a little too wooden for me to get behind, especially the women and the men's relationships to them. There are not one, but two amazingly unbelievabl The reason people are having trouble reading this is because it isn't very good. It was okay for a fun novel of weird things happening, but this was sold to us as a "literary adventure." I think it aspired to be one, what with all it's quotes of uncertain origin and fancy Inuit words all over the place, but it didn't quite make it. The characters are a little too wooden for me to get behind, especially the women and the men's relationships to them. There are not one, but two amazingly unbelievable musey sylphs running about New Venice. One each for our protagonists to fall inadvisedly, irrationally,and hopelessly in love with. They are different from another in that one has a tattoo. That makes her bohemian, you know. As our tale begins, we are presented with an anything-goes winter wonderland whose laissez faire debauchery is at risk from the shadowy cabal of profit-minded usurpers currently in office. Our heroes are, apparently, a bureaucratic gardener and a drug-addled academic womaniser. They are about as effective as you might think. Anyway, a lot of veiled, and not-so-veiled, threats get thrown around and then there's a magician and a ghost or something. The book gets mired in the sad impossibility of defeating the rigged political machine harshing everyone's buzz. Then, there's a blimp. Plot unstuck. The end. I did like the parts where characters allude to things that have gone on previous to our meeting them. The gardener is obsessed with this Helen person. I thought it was great that, while we find out who she is, by the end of the book, we still don't know what her relationship is to him. I think it gives the book a little life. Then, as I sat down to write this, I saw this was number one in a series which means that it will probably not be permitted to remain a mystery for long. Oh, well. Also, what is the deal with Iceland spar? I read Pynchon's Against the Day and I assumed he made up the super weirdness of the stuff. That, plus the addition of the blimp and its contents kind of lead me to believe this guy read that book and thought all the crap in it would make a nice spin-off. But I don't know much about either of these dudes so if you'd like to fill me in, I can take it. P.S. Happy ending brought to you by really, really white dudes, as if you didn't know. :/

  7. 4 out of 5

    zxvasdf

    A Victorian, almost steampunk ice-crusted Viriconium, an frigid Gormenghast. New Venice is lodged somewhere in the Arctic Circle, surrounded by an elaborate Air Architecture which warms the city to a tolerable degree of frigidity, populated by elaborate architectural fancies and a mythological history. So many ideas are packed into this volume, many of them incorporating, contrasting, and clashing with Inuit philosophies which might as well be alien. The fact that people took the time to build s A Victorian, almost steampunk ice-crusted Viriconium, an frigid Gormenghast. New Venice is lodged somewhere in the Arctic Circle, surrounded by an elaborate Air Architecture which warms the city to a tolerable degree of frigidity, populated by elaborate architectural fancies and a mythological history. So many ideas are packed into this volume, many of them incorporating, contrasting, and clashing with Inuit philosophies which might as well be alien. The fact that people took the time to build such a city in one of the most inhospitable places on earth and populated it with enough people for a thriving economy seems like something out of the mind of a mad Frenchman. Oh, wait, it is. Aurorarama also introduces us to some beautiful Inuit words. Like qarrtsiluni which means waiting in the dark for something to burst. This is a beautiful thing because to the Westerner (the qallunaat, the Inuit analogue of foreigner which distills down to the inevitable "white man") there is no place in our vocabulary for this kind of verb. The cultural difference is significant. No qallunaat sits in the dark waiting for something to burst. No, the qallunaat goes in search of something to burst. Which, to the Inuit, is pillortq, another pretty word which is also my favorite, meaning insane. How strange our ways must have been to a people perfectly accustomed to sparse living in a world of almost perpetual darkness! I found it funny how Valtat put in a disclaimer at the final page of the novel, a quote by Margaret Cavendish, which boils down to this "Like my story, like it! If you don't like it, shut up and mind your business." Ha ha!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    Gave up. I not only stopped caring about the characters and the plot, I started actively rooting for everyone involved to be eaten by a polar bear, beginning with the author, s'il vous plait et merci beaucoup! It was time to stop reading. Gave up. I not only stopped caring about the characters and the plot, I started actively rooting for everyone involved to be eaten by a polar bear, beginning with the author, s'il vous plait et merci beaucoup! It was time to stop reading.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    So there was this bit on BBC World this morning about sexism in France. Explains the fact that female characters are cyphers in this book. Intersting idea and world building. But needs more character and plot.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ginger K

    Yes, this book took me a month to read. I finished it out of sheer cussedness - and so that, if I posted a less-than-glowing review, people wouldn't be able to convincingly tell me it got better. In Aurorarama, we have two main point of view characters, plus periodic appearances of an intrusive omniscient narrator. I rather liked the omniscient narrator, as it fit with the emulated time period. I hated Gabriel d'Allier. He's a terrible person and (worse) not in any sort of interesting way. When Yes, this book took me a month to read. I finished it out of sheer cussedness - and so that, if I posted a less-than-glowing review, people wouldn't be able to convincingly tell me it got better. In Aurorarama, we have two main point of view characters, plus periodic appearances of an intrusive omniscient narrator. I rather liked the omniscient narrator, as it fit with the emulated time period. I hated Gabriel d'Allier. He's a terrible person and (worse) not in any sort of interesting way. When we meet him, he's in danger of losing his job as a professor due to an accusation he's behaved improperly towards a female student. He is righteously angry because he did no such thing - not with that student. Though when the student tearfully comes to him with concerns about the professor who made her voice these false accusations, he ... gives her a spanking. Now maybe, dear reader, it would be more becoming in you to leave the room, and I would advise you not to look back on the scene if you can help it: were you to linger and witness, for instance, that Phoebe has now her grey dress and petticoats over her head, you would be, and not me, responsible for it, and you could not count on either yours truly or on Gabriel to confirm that this vision was not a child of your unbridled imagination. Gabriel is a lech and a drug abuser, he doesn't care about anything involving effort and generally falls aimlessly through the plot: an observer necessary to let the readers know that plot is happening, rather than an actor himself. I also didn't like Brentford Orsini much. Compared to Gabriel, I suppose he is all right, and he is set up as one of the few denizens of New Venice to recognize the humanity of - and validity of complaints by - the local Inuit. It is through Brentford that we learn that New Venice is a place where dream portents are true, though subject to interpretation. We meet through Brentford's dream the Ghost Lady, whom Brentford mistakes as Sandy Lake (a once-famous, long vanished pop singer), and from his search for meaning we briefly see Kujira Etsuko (a woman whose body once literally produced drugs, thus positioning her at the center of a famous New Venice love story). Shortly after his introduction, we readers are led through a painfully lacking-in-introspection perspective on his upcoming marriage. Although Brentford is still in love with the dead Helen (a seeming paragon and savior of the city, and the person he'd been seeking in dreams), he is engaged to and living with Sybil - who is a pop singer and utterly vacant in Brentford's perspective. He doesn't even seem to like her music/band. I just can't understand intentionally tying oneself to someone you don't even like, so Brentford pretty much lost me there. But at least he acts (even if he often waits until the last moment to choose to do so). There's a lot of ideas in this book, probably too many. There's the usual steampunk technology and digressions into exactly how this particular dirigible is constructed. There are mentions of the various quarters of the district, arising from different cultural bases. There are a number of descriptions of the music and music scene, none of which made me wish I could actually hear any of it. At some point in the past, time started running backwards (this may have something to do with Helen saving New Venice by magic - oh, yes, and there's magic), but since New Venice is still in contact with the wider world, I'm not sure what it means that time is running backwards. There are anarchists in the literary tradition of the turn of the previous century (i.e. people who like to blow things up). There are the Inuit, whom the chapter titles call Eskimos, and who are excellent plot points but barely painted in as characters. There are spirit animals, of a sort. And, like the cover copy promised me, there are Suffragettes (herein titled Sophragettes). While I was talking about this book to a friend, I promised that this line would make it into my review. So here it is. (view spoiler)[About two thirds of the way through the novel, every significant female character vanishes from the story. Stella runs off on Gabriel with another man (possibly under hypnotic coercion). Sybil vanishes from Brentford's wedding bed (definitely under hypnotic coercion) and is replaced by a puppet. The other women who have played any sort of significant role at this point are the dead Helen and the ghost of a woman who arrived dead at the docks of New Venice in a sled drawn by dogs, holding a mirror with "Lancelot" written on it for anyone who missed the Lady of Shallot allusion. The ghost woman's appearances are tied to Phoebe - who vanished in the company of the bad man who has now taken Sybil. Lilian/Sandy is in hiding with the Scavengers. (hide spoiler)] At this point, every woman has disappeared from the text. This sounds like a metaphor for everything I hate in bad fiction, only it literally happens! So then I had to finish reading, even though I was seriously done with this book, because I knew - knew - that someone would pop up to tell me I was wrong and should have kept reading. But no. (view spoiler)[Sure, the Sophragettes turn up deus ex machina style to save the day - but can any reader tell what they were fighting for or against before they get swept up into Brentford's goals? A small piece of the tale is from Lillian Lenton nee Sandy Lake's point of view, but that section is not about what Lillian wants or does - it's about one of our dead ladies' desires (and entirely wrapped up in the needs one of the gentlemen). (hide spoiler)] Brentford, from the epilogue, sums it up himself. He suddenly missed Lilian. He meant Sybil. He meant Helen. No. He meant Lilian. When the female characters are essentially interchangeable in what they mean to the main male character, there is a problem that no number of Sophragettes is going to cure.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stacia

    Enjoyed it, but I wouldn't term it a favorite, though there were some clever things &/or wording in there that I quite enjoyed, lots of nice historical touches too. Love, love the look & feel of the cover & endpapers -- a little artistic beauty in & of itself. (Leah, here on GR, posted a review & added a link to her blog w/ some fascinating info about the cover art. Check it out! Thanks, Leah!) Overall, I'd rate this book 3.5 stars. I guess I'd say it's a fantasy w/ dystopian overtones, set in an Enjoyed it, but I wouldn't term it a favorite, though there were some clever things &/or wording in there that I quite enjoyed, lots of nice historical touches too. Love, love the look & feel of the cover & endpapers -- a little artistic beauty in & of itself. (Leah, here on GR, posted a review & added a link to her blog w/ some fascinating info about the cover art. Check it out! Thanks, Leah!) Overall, I'd rate this book 3.5 stars. I guess I'd say it's a fantasy w/ dystopian overtones, set in an Arctic environment. I enjoyed the environment part of it -- the descriptions of the ice, the cold, the sky.... Fantasy is not my favorite genre (nor do I dislike it), so that part was fine, the dystopian parts were fine also (not too heavy-handed or depressing which, imo, is good). A little bit of a steampunk flavor, but not a book that overall I would call steampunk. There was a lot in there -- many people, factions, events, making me wonder if the story couldn't have been a little tighter had the author cut back just a little bit. Enjoyable & I'd probably recommend it most for people who like fantasy, but want a somewhat different (than the stereotypical norm) fantasy world.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Erin Christman

    Halfway through, and there's already three manic-pixie-dream-girl characters. The fourth female character? Is dead. Okay, I finished it. The book creates an interesting world, but I can't help feeling like it was a sequel to a book I hadn't read, with references to past events in New Venice's history I'm not sure if the reader is supposed to understand or not. And the women? Two of them are literally hypnotized and used as pawns throughout most of the book (and bringing them out of their hypnosis Halfway through, and there's already three manic-pixie-dream-girl characters. The fourth female character? Is dead. Okay, I finished it. The book creates an interesting world, but I can't help feeling like it was a sequel to a book I hadn't read, with references to past events in New Venice's history I'm not sure if the reader is supposed to understand or not. And the women? Two of them are literally hypnotized and used as pawns throughout most of the book (and bringing them out of their hypnosis, makes them fall in love with the first man they see). A third, it turns out, only seduced a main character to further her mission. The dead woman completes the whore/goddess cliche by actually appearing at the embodiment of an Arctic goddess, guiding that same character through a sort of vision quest. A fifth minor female character oddly gets a page worth of character development at the end of the last chapter. The sixth? Is a ghost. Think I'm exaggerating? Ten pages from the end, the main character thinks to himself, "He suddenly missed Lillian. He meant Sybil. He meant Helen. No. He meant Lillian (p.401)."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Take a large measure of Jules Verne, for his late nineteenth century steampunk milieu and wild, individualistic adventuring, and mix in a heap of China Miéville, to add the fantastic fabulation that he does in that weird-fiction world. Stir in the spice of militant anarchism (remember, those ante bellum years were the heyday of anarchism!) and place the resulting dish on a bed of ice, to represent the arctic locale for the story. Now, throw the whole thing away and read Valtat's Aurorarama . A Take a large measure of Jules Verne, for his late nineteenth century steampunk milieu and wild, individualistic adventuring, and mix in a heap of China Miéville, to add the fantastic fabulation that he does in that weird-fiction world. Stir in the spice of militant anarchism (remember, those ante bellum years were the heyday of anarchism!) and place the resulting dish on a bed of ice, to represent the arctic locale for the story. Now, throw the whole thing away and read Valtat's Aurorarama . After all, he almost certainly writes better than you anyway, and why try to re-create what he has done so marvelously? Because he also has some wonderfully memorable characters, both at the center and the edges of his story. And he's done the research to be able to weave in those crazy decades of arctic exploration and Inuit culture. This isn't quite at the heights of strange-fiction storytelling, like Miéville's The City and the City , but it's still an exciting yarn and a darn good read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    A utopian city stumbles under the weight of its lost ideals. A pair of once-great bohemian Articocrats drowse through their days, bored, drugged, and surveilled. A terrible past hovers over the pleasure-seeking inhabitants of the Arctic paradise known as New Venice, where winter nights never end and the omnipresent Council keeps an all-too-watchful eye... Valtat has created a beautiful, solidly real world in New Venice, a society driving itself crazy with shut-in boredom, creating, using and thro A utopian city stumbles under the weight of its lost ideals. A pair of once-great bohemian Articocrats drowse through their days, bored, drugged, and surveilled. A terrible past hovers over the pleasure-seeking inhabitants of the Arctic paradise known as New Venice, where winter nights never end and the omnipresent Council keeps an all-too-watchful eye... Valtat has created a beautiful, solidly real world in New Venice, a society driving itself crazy with shut-in boredom, creating, using and throwing aside new drugs, music and art at a breakneck rate. Dangerously at odds with the Council of Seven and with the traditional Inuit owners of the land they occupy, the New Venetians party hard and keep their heads low. But change is in the air. Our two heroes, Brentford Orsini and Gabriel d'Allier, are members of the old guard of New Venice, stripped of their titles and privileges after the terrible event known only as the Blue Wild. They pass somewhat tiredly through life, dreaming of the old days, and of better days yet to come, while they are kept under surveillance by the sinister (and very well-dressed) Gentlemen of the Night. For Brentford is suspected of having authored a violently anti-Council treatise, A Blast on the Barren Land, lambasting the fascist government of the Arctic and agitating for a revolution. We are introduced to New Venice through their eyes, by turns blazing with anger, bleak with despair, and hazy with nostalgia (and other substances). It is the best kind of worldbuilding, where the reader is treated as though they know the world already, not with confusion, but with respect. There is no info-dumping that doesn't also display Valtat's gloriously irreverent use of language (written in English, his second language) and reveal something about his delightfully downtrodden characters, and the icy cold, hedonistic world of life above the Arctic Circle is evoked with every line. By turns cleverly steampunk (or, as Valtat prefers, Teslapop), wickedly humourous, dreamily surreal, and prettily mythical, the story of Brentford and Gabriel, as well as a highly developed cast of secondary characters who range from wild revolutionary feminist musicians to surly penguin-eating Eskimo, meanders and trickles towards the inevitable conclusion. Which is, of course, not really up for debate. The depth of Arctic mythology and alternate history that Valtat has created are delightful, with hints of something a little weirder than anarchist airships and stage mesmerism hovering at the borders of reality. As our heroes find themselves drawn to that fickle mistress, the elusive North Pole, for reasons they could hardly explain to anyone else but that inevitably lead back to the mysterious Blue Wild in one form or another, the strings of that reality begin to come loose (or looser) and their experiences tread the delicate line between adventure and dreamscape. In many ways, this book reminded me of Gordon Dahlquist's Glass Books trilogy, where an imaginary land intersects with real historical eras, but has its own landmark events and personages, and where the convolution of plot and a glut of characters was an integral part of the storytelling. But in essence, in atmosphere and undercurrent, it is entirely its own story. Valtat's gleeful creation of Arctic language quirks - taxsleighs to be hired, a pile of orgiastic bodies referred to as a meatberg, Poletics, Articocrats - gave me constant cause to giggle, something you don't necessarily expect in a book like this. And it sums up the experience of Aurorarama: not to be taken too seriously! EDIT: I wrote a blog post about the mysterious and elusive origins of the stunning cover art here. Hint: one part of that cover image was added later. Only one.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Meghna Jayanth

    I'm done with Jean-Christophe Valtat’s deleriously literary steampunk adventure Aurorarama. It’s a book brimming with ideas and wit; a fully realised alternate history of the arctic city of New Venice, 1908. The “poletics” are deftly observed - the city is slowly encroaching on the life of the native Inuit, and the sinister & authoritarian Council are clamping down on the riotous, drug-fuelled, auroral cultural scene as an anonymous radical pamphlet A Blast on the Barren Land begins stirring up I'm done with Jean-Christophe Valtat’s deleriously literary steampunk adventure Aurorarama. It’s a book brimming with ideas and wit; a fully realised alternate history of the arctic city of New Venice, 1908. The “poletics” are deftly observed - the city is slowly encroaching on the life of the native Inuit, and the sinister & authoritarian Council are clamping down on the riotous, drug-fuelled, auroral cultural scene as an anonymous radical pamphlet A Blast on the Barren Land begins stirring up the city. It blends and builds upon and boils over our own mythologising of the North Pole (an idea rather than a fixed place; a place to pour dreams; a journey’s end constantly deferred) and arctic exploration into a hedonistic, mystical headrush of punning prose and almost-shamanic narrative. Putting down the book is like waking up from a dream, it lingers deliciously.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rhiannon Ellington

    Oh boy. I really wanted to like this book -- and it does have some original, beautiful ideas. It really ultimately failed to live up to those ideas though. The women characters are so badly written that they read like parodies of misogynist writing, which made it really difficult to enjoy. "Jules Verne" on drugs is a really accurate description, actually. But it it's not a literary metaphor; reading this book is really like talking to someone on LSD who just watched that Werner Herzog movie abou Oh boy. I really wanted to like this book -- and it does have some original, beautiful ideas. It really ultimately failed to live up to those ideas though. The women characters are so badly written that they read like parodies of misogynist writing, which made it really difficult to enjoy. "Jules Verne" on drugs is a really accurate description, actually. But it it's not a literary metaphor; reading this book is really like talking to someone on LSD who just watched that Werner Herzog movie about Antarctica.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

    Turns out I'm not such a fan of steampunk. Good to know. Turns out I'm not such a fan of steampunk. Good to know.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I both enjoyed and was disappointed by ‘Aurorarama’. It was magnificent and ambitious in scope, but failed in several significant ways. The scene of events is New Venice, a magnificent confection of a city located inside the Arctic Circle, north of Canada. The time is around the end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th century. The city is undergoing some political upheaval relating to circulation of a forbidden book, dissatisfaction among the native Inuit, and a black airship that hovers ominou I both enjoyed and was disappointed by ‘Aurorarama’. It was magnificent and ambitious in scope, but failed in several significant ways. The scene of events is New Venice, a magnificent confection of a city located inside the Arctic Circle, north of Canada. The time is around the end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th century. The city is undergoing some political upheaval relating to circulation of a forbidden book, dissatisfaction among the native Inuit, and a black airship that hovers ominously. This setting is beautifully evoked and the world-building is rich, multi-layered, and fascinating. New Venice seems like a captivating place to explore, with a singular underground music scene, drug culture, and fragile economy. The descriptive passages are for the most part beautiful and evocative. There are plenty of allusions to spot and many amusing plays on words. I found myself less impressed with the plot and characterisation. The pace of plotting was curiously inconsistent; for a while the narrative merely seemed to follow two characters around their daily lives. Whilst this introduced New Venice nicely, it didn’t sufficiently set the scene for things to come. Thus, the escalation of events seemed sudden and inexplicable. The initial scattering of strange apparitions and mysterious happenings did not tie in very clearly to subsequent developments. This general weirdness was certainly atmospheric, however I also found it a little frustrating. I believe this was linked to the two point of view characters, neither of whom had a clear agenda (that they articulated) and seemed constantly to be reacting to the unexpected. Nonetheless, I basically grasped what was going on. The real problem to me was the rampant misogyny of the whole thing. Both of the point of view characters are male and for more than half the book they only mention women if they’re having sex with them. This is especially maddening given references to a since-deceased woman called Helen who apparently ‘saved the city’ in some unspecified way. I wanted to hear more about her. Both of the main female characters (Sybil and Stella) exist solely as love interests and to be manipulated and controlled by men. I found this deeply depressing. Latterly, an interesting woman called Lillian turns up, yet gets little to do, is not given the point of view, and by the end seems slated to be another love interest. Thus the male gaze is dominant, which I think holds the novel back. When I started reading it, I anticipated something like The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, which combines mystery, adventure, and atmosphere, whilst including excellent female characters. Although ‘Aurorarama’ begins with a more interesting setting and the prospect of revolution (which I always love to read about), I much prefer The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters overall. I am in two minds about whether to read the sequel, Luminous Chaos. There is a short extract from it at the end of ‘Aurorarama’, which suggests that the points of view will remain with Gabriel (a dilettante that I often wished to slap) and Brentford (who is merely tedious in his lack of personality). The action seems to move to Paris, though, which surely undermines the main appeal of the series - New Venice is a wonderful creation. There must be better characters within it to follow the adventures of! Indeed, the side characters of ‘Aurorarama’ are idiosyncratic and interesting. Also at the end of the book is a short essay ‘Towards a New Steampunk’, which articulates some interesting points about the appeal of this sub-genre. I’ve mostly given up on steampunk novels, after getting bored with and failing to finish several. ‘Aurorarama’ is a cut above most steampunk in world-building and quality of writing, but the fact that it could have been so much better is maddening. I am glad that I went to New Venice, I just wish it had been with more congenial companions.

  19. 4 out of 5

    David Schwan

    This is a hard book to review. This are well done things in it and not so well done. A reasonable size city sits very far north. On the surface the city functions quite well, but trouble is brewing. Ultimately this is a dystopian novel but that aspect only shows up late in the book. The world building is OK but takes way too long. The characters are nice but quite confusing for most of the book. Where the story is left at the end hints of future promise in the story line, but who knows.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ben Fleck

    I really wanted to like this - I really did - but I could not. It had a lot of cool elements: a mysterious air ship, a polar kangaroo, STEAMPUNK overload, etc. But, alas, with all that cool stuff... characterization and plot were left out. The two protagonists, Brentford Orsini and Gabriel D'Allier, were baseless and underwhelming, while also being almost interchangeable. The main problem was neither had an actual, legitimate, story-moving GOAL. Neither character knew what they wanted or where th I really wanted to like this - I really did - but I could not. It had a lot of cool elements: a mysterious air ship, a polar kangaroo, STEAMPUNK overload, etc. But, alas, with all that cool stuff... characterization and plot were left out. The two protagonists, Brentford Orsini and Gabriel D'Allier, were baseless and underwhelming, while also being almost interchangeable. The main problem was neither had an actual, legitimate, story-moving GOAL. Neither character knew what they wanted or where they were going. And the plot just rambled on like a continuation of some story I had never heard of. The world created was good, but it felt too info-dumpy, and not real enough. The plot had no buildup or excitement. I didn't care about the revolution and honestly I had no idea what was happening half the time. Really... what the heck was happening? WHAT. WAS. HAPPENING. The author filled up the book with lots of words and descriptions, but they all added up to nothing. It made me feel nothing inside. AT ALL. This book didn't have any sort of emotional or thought-provoking impact on me. It just was that... a book... that kept going on... about nothing in particular... with two unlikable, wandering characters... doing nothing in particular... in a polar city... for no reason... oh, lets throw in some weird nonsensical words. We need Plot. We need Character Motivation. We need Character Development. We need an actual STORY. A STORY THAT MOVES. This book had none of that, and it's a shame.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Smellsofbikes

    This is one of the strangest books I've read in years, not only from the standpoint of plot, but also from the uneven writing style. If the first 50 pages seem Baroque, overwritten, and almost intentionally opaque, it's not just you, and it doesn't stay like that throughout: it evens out into a solid, although very odd, story. At times this reminded me of Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, and at other times, of Chabon's The Jewish Policemen's Union, but mostly it felt like an arctic steampun This is one of the strangest books I've read in years, not only from the standpoint of plot, but also from the uneven writing style. If the first 50 pages seem Baroque, overwritten, and almost intentionally opaque, it's not just you, and it doesn't stay like that throughout: it evens out into a solid, although very odd, story. At times this reminded me of Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, and at other times, of Chabon's The Jewish Policemen's Union, but mostly it felt like an arctic steampunk version of Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49. When you read Pynchon, or Eco, you have a feeling that there's an enormous amount of stuff going on and you're just seeing the tip of it. With Eco, you know that's the case, and with Pynchon you're pretty sure he's just faking it, but never *quite* sure. Aurorarama fits right between those, with a sense of structure underlying the drug-fuelled hallucinations, magic, supernatural, and general strangeness. The book is claimed to be for young adults, but I honestly don't know for what demographic it would have the most appeal: the vocabulary is straight out of Pynchon, and the emotional distance and opacity of the writing isn't encouraging to uncommitted readers. But it is a rewarding book, finally, despite the work it requires.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Treat Street

    I really liked this book but I think it is only going to be liked by certain people. It reminded me of "Sleep no more," the New York performance art piece where you wander around and experience things...plot being less important than being immersed. Also reminded me of "The Night Circus" (but much better). You've got to sit back and relax and allow yourself to be confused. I probably read 100 pages before I got my bearings. In a good way. Every character has a personality, and there is a plot th I really liked this book but I think it is only going to be liked by certain people. It reminded me of "Sleep no more," the New York performance art piece where you wander around and experience things...plot being less important than being immersed. Also reminded me of "The Night Circus" (but much better). You've got to sit back and relax and allow yourself to be confused. I probably read 100 pages before I got my bearings. In a good way. Every character has a personality, and there is a plot though you can't fully appreciate it for quite a while. Some people might find the witticisms and clever writing distracting buy I enjoyed it very much. Jules Verne meets Sex in the City meets Occupy. It is super weird. Always surprising. I loved it but recommend it to my friends with caveats. It might not work for you.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Valtat’s Aurorarama is a sui generic creation filled with bizarre and loopy humor, dreamlike images, and a playful skewering of literature and history. A combination of its dreamy style, Valtat’s use of English (he is French writing in English for the first time), complex plot and a large cast renders much of this hard to follow and to be honest a little incomprehensible, but push through and it will be mostly worth it. Lots of stuff gets pulled together here, Pynchon( Against the Day seems a sp Valtat’s Aurorarama is a sui generic creation filled with bizarre and loopy humor, dreamlike images, and a playful skewering of literature and history. A combination of its dreamy style, Valtat’s use of English (he is French writing in English for the first time), complex plot and a large cast renders much of this hard to follow and to be honest a little incomprehensible, but push through and it will be mostly worth it. Lots of stuff gets pulled together here, Pynchon( Against the Day seems a spiritual reference and there is an underground mail service in the style of Crying of Lot 49), steampunk, late 19th and early 20th century pulp(especially dealing with anarchists), the tales of Wells and Verne, and tales of polar explorers, is pulled together into a nutty whole.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Janna

    This was more like a 2.5 for me. My hopes were high because I heard this was the "adult Golden Compass," but I also almost expected to be disappointed because it could never be as good. There were 8 or 9 knockout sentences and a few breathtaking paragraphs, even, but the plot didn't start intriguing me until more than 2/3rds of the way through. Once it picked up, it was highly entertaining, though. I was much more interested by one of the main characters than the other, and- maybe it was just me- This was more like a 2.5 for me. My hopes were high because I heard this was the "adult Golden Compass," but I also almost expected to be disappointed because it could never be as good. There were 8 or 9 knockout sentences and a few breathtaking paragraphs, even, but the plot didn't start intriguing me until more than 2/3rds of the way through. Once it picked up, it was highly entertaining, though. I was much more interested by one of the main characters than the other, and- maybe it was just me- found that the chapters focused on him were packed with much smoother, more inventive writing. I enjoyed the setting/aura of everything and all the historical tidbits, but there are some pretty unnecessary (bad) puns; if you read it, you will see what I mean.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Corin Cummings

    I picked up this book looking for something fun and interesting, and it was a bit of both of those things, but left me feeling... 'meh.' While there are some intriguing ideas in the book, I found the story jumbled and dull. I never cared particularly about the characters or the plot. It wasn't immersive enough to really take me somewhere, and it didn't move along quick enough to hold my attention. And there was all that annoying, jargon-filled, self-referencing "steampunk" bullshit. Although the I picked up this book looking for something fun and interesting, and it was a bit of both of those things, but left me feeling... 'meh.' While there are some intriguing ideas in the book, I found the story jumbled and dull. I never cared particularly about the characters or the plot. It wasn't immersive enough to really take me somewhere, and it didn't move along quick enough to hold my attention. And there was all that annoying, jargon-filled, self-referencing "steampunk" bullshit. Although the ending was amusing in a comic-book movie kind of way. The whole thing reminded me of a Terry Gilliam movie, but less "Brazil" (98%*) and more "Dr. Parnassus" (64%). *Rotten Tomatoes ratings

  26. 5 out of 5

    Paul Oliver

    Volume one in "The Mysteries of New Venice" trilogy is a steampunk epic about life, love and political collapse in New Venice, the utopic/dystopic city run on steam power at the heart of the North Pole. Valtat is French intellectual and literary author of renown, but it is steampunk that is his passion. This is a strange, wonderful book that celebrates and innovates within the genre. The appended essay defending the steampunk movement is incredibly potent. It is based on the essay Valtat wrote f Volume one in "The Mysteries of New Venice" trilogy is a steampunk epic about life, love and political collapse in New Venice, the utopic/dystopic city run on steam power at the heart of the North Pole. Valtat is French intellectual and literary author of renown, but it is steampunk that is his passion. This is a strange, wonderful book that celebrates and innovates within the genre. The appended essay defending the steampunk movement is incredibly potent. It is based on the essay Valtat wrote for io9.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Missie Kay

    I didn't finish this book. It made me sad to give up on it, but there were no characters to speak of. There were male people, but they just seemed to drift about aimlessly and seem secretive. The women were even worse, with fluffy manic pixie dream girl-types thick on the ground, but no real women of any kind. I loved the world-building, but what is the point of a beautiful world with only cardboard cutouts to populate it? I read some other reviews, and it seems that that aspect never gets bette I didn't finish this book. It made me sad to give up on it, but there were no characters to speak of. There were male people, but they just seemed to drift about aimlessly and seem secretive. The women were even worse, with fluffy manic pixie dream girl-types thick on the ground, but no real women of any kind. I loved the world-building, but what is the point of a beautiful world with only cardboard cutouts to populate it? I read some other reviews, and it seems that that aspect never gets better. I have other books to read that I'll like better, or at least find more interesting.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul Cirone

    It's crazy this novel didn't get more attention. It's kind of a masterpiece. I read it because Laura Miller of Salon raved about it, and she was right. It's steampunk heaven. Witty, clever, ingenious and the writing is delectable! If you like intelligent, literary sci-fi i can't say enough good things about this one! It's crazy this novel didn't get more attention. It's kind of a masterpiece. I read it because Laura Miller of Salon raved about it, and she was right. It's steampunk heaven. Witty, clever, ingenious and the writing is delectable! If you like intelligent, literary sci-fi i can't say enough good things about this one!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    If you think that polar crime fiction set in another otherworldly world near the North Pole is hard to resist like I did, I suggest you take a deep breath and resist. I so wanted to like this book since it has everything that I would normally love, but instead it just felt flat and as if you were reading the bad sequel to a novel you hadn't read. If you think that polar crime fiction set in another otherworldly world near the North Pole is hard to resist like I did, I suggest you take a deep breath and resist. I so wanted to like this book since it has everything that I would normally love, but instead it just felt flat and as if you were reading the bad sequel to a novel you hadn't read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    carla

    This book is basically not worthy of my time. As many reviewers note, the world building is great. Yet, amazing novels come about because a concept isn't just that. It is something with either robust characters or a strong plot. This book has neither. Add in a remorseless rape, and I'm pretty much done. I got a hundred pages into this and felt I would prefer to spend my time elsewhere. This book is basically not worthy of my time. As many reviewers note, the world building is great. Yet, amazing novels come about because a concept isn't just that. It is something with either robust characters or a strong plot. This book has neither. Add in a remorseless rape, and I'm pretty much done. I got a hundred pages into this and felt I would prefer to spend my time elsewhere.

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