Boneshaker has everything going on, it’s so much more than just a simple steampunk story yet still has everything you could want from one too. At its core it’s a book about family, a mother’s love for her child and a coming of age story. That being said it’s filled with all the tropes you could hope for, marvellous machines and contraptions tied in with alternate history and topped off with some excellent and beautiful writing that will have you flying through the book in no time.
The Anubis Gates
Author: Tim Powers
It’s not just cars and airships that make up the steampunk genre and nowhere is that more evident than in The Anubis Gates. The story begins in 1801 when a cabal of Egyptian priests decide to call upon the Egyptian gods in order to lay waste to London and take down the British Empire for good. This doesn’t work as they plan however and instead; they open a portal that allows one to move through both time and space.
This has all the charm and excitement that you’d expect from an adventure story, it’s like a mash up of an Indiana Jones story and the Stargate franchise. That being said it has its own unique feel to it with elements of time travel, real history and the supernatural.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Author: Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill
This is the first Graphic Novel on the list and certainly amongst the best of its entries. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is set in 1898 and tells of a group of talented individuals formed to fight the malevolent forces stirring within London. The members of this team are no ordinary people though, they are in fact all based on well known characters from literature of the era. Alan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Hawley Griffin (aka The Invisible Man) and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde make up a team of unsavoury yet somehow lovable characters.
This truly is a work of art, it’s a book that is crammed with Victorian goodness from the expected steampunk contraptions to literature references far beyond what you’d expect. It shows an excellent study of character as well as an adventure that’ll leave you wanting more. There are also other volumes of the work beyond the first too so that thirst can quickly be quenched.
Perdido Street Station
Author: Chine Miéville
Unlike all of the previous entries Perdido Street Station doesn’t take place in any city we’d recognise but in the city of New Crobuzon in the fictional world of Bas-Lag. It’s a rather uncomfortable story about a scientist who becomes obsessed with his experiments, one in particular being a strange luminous caterpillar that feeds on hallucinogenic drugs, growing larger and larger by the day. Though what emerges from its eventual cocoon will change New Crobuzon forever and invoke a terror that nobody could imagine.
This is something of a masterclass in world building, Miéville creates not only a fantastical and bizarre environment but one which operates on steampunk science that has clearly been thought through as opposed to being cooked up purely to apply a visual aesthetic. It has a sort of horrid grungy feel to it which will haunt you but somehow still leave you wanting to read on.