Saturday, 14 June 2014

Book Review - Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion

Published by: Wizard's Tower Press
Edited by: Roz Clarke and Joanne Hall


I'd heard a few rumours about a book being funded by the BristolCon Foundation, a charitable organisation that runs the BristolCon SF & Fantasy convention - which takes place in Bristol every October - and here's the result of their labours, and their first short-story anthology to help promote local writers and artists.

Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion is a collection of short stories set in and around the city of Bristol and they all share a similar theme - they are all written in the genre of 'steampunk', a genre that I'm familiar with but have never looked into with any seriousness. ASBF is my first proper dive into this popular and ever-expanding alternate history setting, so would this book turn me off it or draw me into the world of brass, steam and technology?

The book is made of three sections covering three themes;

Less Than Men, covering stories such as slavery and the slave trade and how it affects individulas, societies and perceptions of freedom and property. My favourite story in this section was 'The Lesser Men Have No Language' by Deborah Walker which challenges preconceptions. It ends rather suddenly and I was left feeling that there was more to be said, but it's a good story that made an impression on me.

Lost Souls has a much more supernatural and mystical slant to it. These are dark and somewhat brooding and there's a hint of horror in there, but they are a great collection of tales you'll want to read on a stormy night in front of a crackling fire. My favourite story here was 'The Girl with Red Hair' by Myfanwy Rodman and it certainly kept me hooked from the first sentence to the very last.

Finally there's Travelling Light that is, basically, a collection of action adventure stories. 'The Lanterns of Death Affair' by Andy Bigwood was my favourite story in this section as it's a good tale blending adventure, steampunk and alternate history.

So, what has this book done for me? Has it made me a steampunk fan? Well, yes and no. While it hasn't made me want to suddenly start a huge collection of steampunk paraphernalia and delve into the genre a lot deeper, it certainly has made me appreciate it a lot more and fully understand what it is that people enjoy about it. I will be looking a little more into what steampunk can offer and see what else I can get out if it.

I enjoyed the stories here and found them fulfilling and thought provoking. Most of them hit the mark for me and even those that didn't were a good read. In all, there are plenty of stories covering plenty of different ideas, styles and moods so there's a lot of material that'll suit most fans of the steampunk genre. I can easily recommend it.

Contents:

Case of the Vapours, by Ken Shinn
Brassworth, by Christine Morgan
The Lesser Men Have No Language, by Deborah Walker
Brass and Bone, by Joanne Hall
The Girl with Red Hair, by Myfanwy Rodman
Artifice Perdu, by Pete Sutton
Miss Butler and the Handlander Process, by John Hawkes-Reed
Something In The Water, by Cheryl Morgan
The Chronicles of Montague and Dalton: The Hunt for Alleyway Agnes, by Scott Lewis
The Sound of Gyroscopes, by Jonathan L. Howard
Flight of Daedalus, by Piotr Świetlik
The Traveller’s Apprentice, by Ian Millsted
Lord Craddock: Ascension, by Stephen Blake
The Lanterns of Death Affair, by Andy Bigwood

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come and the BristolCon Foundation is already planning their next collection.