For the uninitiated, Steampunk is a subgenre of Sci Fi, and one that has many explanations. My take on this quirky and slightly wonderful “thing” is to imagine the console of the Tardis, add the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and plonk it all into a late Industrial Revolution setting (London or the Wild West). I think the best summing up of it comes from The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, who state “if Jules Verne or H.G. Wells were writing their science fiction today, it would be considered “steampunk”.
When I first looked at this genre, I had trouble getting it – much like the first time I picked up a Terry Pratchett book, but I have since become a convert, and I am now considering an entire wardrobe change as a result. Reviewing Steampunk book covers has also proved more difficult than the other genres; mainly because there is no right or wrong. Steampunk continues to evolve, and so therefore does reader taste and the art associated with it. To that end, I have decided that there are no bad Steampunk covers – just lots of different ones. Here are some to whet your appetite.
The Affinity Bridge
I absolutely love this cover, because it tells it all. The wonderful border leaves the reader in no doubt of the genre with its gear-wheel gadgetry, and the Airship tells us that this is classic Steampunk. The hues are just perfect, evocative of what we imagine to be the grittiness of Victorian London’s atmosphere, and the city view at the bottom of the cover confirms this. The flipside then whets the appetite further, and I for one am intrigued to know just how Queen Victoria is being kept alive by a primitive life support system. But wait; there’s more! Clockwork Automatons (robots) that carry out the tasks of the police, media and the law, and the all essential supernatural baddie strangling poor Victorian folk. This book epitomises Steampunk on both sides of its cover, and cannot fail to impress those enamoured of the genre.
Scott Westerfield & Keith Thompson (Illustrator)
There are two covers for the first of this Steampunk trilogy, and I personally prefer the Kindle edition; mainly because it depicts people wearing all-important Steampunk aviator goggles. If there’s one accessory that epitomises the entire genre, it’s those goggles, which come in all manner of shape, size and gadgetry if you care to browse the net. The would-be reader is therefore off to a great start upon spotting the aviator, who is set against the most wonderful background of gadgets, gizmos, gear wheels and machines. Again, the hues are spot-on for the genre, and the bi-plane hints at a pre WW1 setting. The surprise pitch on the back of the cover seems a little far fetched at first glance, but who am I kidding – it’s Steampunk. Of course women can disguise themselves as boys in the British Air Service during the whole Austro-Hungarian business and travel the world. Above all else, what clinches it for me with this cover is the use of the word fantastical. Simply delightful!
Lady of Devices
My final offering is a little different to what might be classic Steampunk, but on closer inspection, I was quite taken with this cover. What intrigued me most was the set of medical tweezers in the woman’s hands, and that, combined with the title itself, piques the interest. At the very least, it asks for a closer look at the back of the book, and ooh, what an interesting pitch it is. The daughter of a Viscount with an interest in the chemistry lab in Victorian London, a combustion engine, the Royal Society of Engineers and explosions and intrigue – definitely Steampunk! Naturally, such a pitch leads to another look at the cover, which confirms that there’s more than meets the eye to this Tretchikov-esque beauty. Any Steampunk fan with a sense for something a little left of centre will be intrigued.