#SteampunkMonth Review: The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis is a Steampunk war story about a woman who, by luck and her willingness to fight, becomes an airship captain. She is set up by the general, with his nephew Bernat being sent aboard to report on her and provide evidence she’s incompetent.

After the opening battle, the first third or so of the book progresses naturally along these lines with Josette trying to establish her command, and Bernat attempting to foil that, until it gets into the thick of the book where a great battle is promised and then delivered upon.

The plot is pretty straightforward so it’s a bit hard to talk about that without spoiling it, but those who want an epic steampunk war piece will not be disappointed. The amazon listing states this is in the tradition of Honor Harrington, and I think that despite the setting change from space to airships, this book delivers on that about perfectly. Fans of David Weber should absolutely love this.

For my personal tastes, the Weber-esque aspects were the weakest parts of the book. It goes into hefty detail on the workings of the airship, the procedures of the crew, etc. Now this isn’t bad writing by any means, it was all very competently done, but those stretches of pages don’t appeal to me, and they occupy large portions of the book’s real estate in hefty detail. That said, it will likely appeal to every other science fiction reader out there big time, so it’s understandable why it was written that way.

Where Bennis actually does quite well that goes beyond what Weber’s done in my opinion is provide a very excellent dichotomy of characters. Josette is rough, rugged and a hard worker to root for. Bernat at first may drive you crazy, and you’ll find yourself agreeing with Josette’s internal and external assessments of him, but he grows on you as his intelligence and wit are revealed. The side characters like Bernat’s lordly uncle and Jutes are well done and memorable also.

The best part of the book, however, is the tone. It’s so masterfully done and multi-dimensional. While it’s a very dark story, really highlighting the horrors of war and making a very gritty environment, the sense of humor and sarcasm from the characters makes a wonderful balance to that. I laughed out loud at several points during the book, which is very difficult to make me do. And at the same time I felt horrible for the characters for what they were thrust into. Being able to achieve both of those moods simultaneously is an incredible feat in writing. This adds a layer to the characters where they don’t just feel like military grunts.

It’s paced very well, and the developments are very nice in terms of the war. I wish we’d see a little bit more of the personal side of the characters, as things are hinted at but the focus stays very much on the war. That’s natural given the crazed state they’re in, but there are points where we could have seen just a little bit more of a push in that direction.

On the war itself, I do appreciate the author’s subtle anti-war messaging to it, the way that Bernat as a lordling really can’t explain what the war’s about and why it matters, nor can the military in Josette. They try, but the reasons are thin. They just have to destroy the enemy because. And sometimes our real wars feel like that in earnest, especially in the last few decades.  Josette’s sense of duty despite this is both admirable in points, and makes you want to scream at her to do something else – but it does always come off well developed and natural. This message didn’t come across as preachy at all either, which is a bonus.

On the flip side, I didn’t feel much sense of progress from Josette or Bernat internally. The latter gave up on his mission to destroy her, but didn’t really change or develop in much of a sense. Josette by the same token had her command firmed up, but the same in terms of lack of much internal development. And I didn’t get a great sense of resolution of the war – now this is consistent with the worldbuilding as the war is talked about as a multi-generational thing that never seems to end, but I would have liked a clearer resolution in that regard where I at least felt some progress was made one way or another.

There is one other message of the whole women are oppressed and held down and everyone’s sexist which is not subtle at all, and while at certain points of the book it can get a bit burdensome, I don’t find it as overwhelming as I have in some books. Still at this point, there are far too many books with that monolithic message where it rings propagandic from publishers in our society rather than ringing true, and it’s not fun to read in the least. For the majority of the book though, it doesn’t have much of an impact or cause too much of a problem.

The prose is about perfect. I mentioned the wit and humor at points, but the descriptions of all the airship components and the workings are really marvelous. You feel very immersed in the world as a reader, it’s incredible. This is a great steampunk fantasy world that’s sensible in every regard.

I’ve put a lot of criticism in here but the real reason for that is I was so immersed that I care about the book, settings, and characters. It’s very few and far between that a book makes me care to that level of detail or that I can envision so much of it so vividly.  I found all of it memorable, and extremely well done. I’ll go so far to say that this is the best book of 2017 to this point about halfway through the year. Highly recommended.

9/10

 

#Steampunk Month Retro Anime Review: Steamboy

The first comment my wife made for this movie was during the opening crawl, where she said “why is it that all these take place in Manchester, 1866.” Too true. Then again, she watches primarily BBC historical dramas, which all seem to take place in such a setting. This took a different take.

I watched the dubbed version becuase I couldn’t resist Patrick Stewart, which I found to be good. It was weird hearing an english accent iwth translated dialogue and lips that didn’t move quite right, but I’ll forgive that as a necessity of the movie.

This is the story about a boy who gets a mysterious package of some steam tech that his father/grandfather were developing. People are chasing after it because it can be used as war weapons, and he goes on an adventure to a world’s fair kind of set up that it escalates further into people tyring to steal tech, automotons attacking, and a giant steam castle that moves through the air and causes all sorts of havoc.

I found it interesting how all the charactesr talked about science as relgiion, almost creepily so. They kept saying science shouldn’t fall into the wrong hands, science would be gbest for humanity, this is the age of science! The mantra feels a lot like certain groups today, and it leads to the hubris and ultimate destruction wrought in the film.

The main character boy was cool. I liked everything about him, his initiative, his smarts, his willingness to defend himself. The O’Hara girl got kinda annoying at points, and the father and grandfather were downright stubborn. I’m still not sure what to conclude of it as the story while it follows a very linear path that’s predictable with the machinery, doesn’t really resolve the elements of the familial aspects that are inteesting at the beginning. They all kind of work together later, but the ultimate resolution is unsatisfying.

Overall, the pacing is pretty good, I liked the main character to watch all the way through, art was pretty decent, and I loved the steam tech all over the place–those concepts were awesome, but it was missing something that made it something to connect to in a big way like I had with Akira, one of Otomo’s other films. I know he took a long time to work on this, but the story could have been better honed. It’s worth a watch once, but probably not multiple times.

7/10

Great Book Launch!

Thanks again to everyone who bought For Steam And Country. Please remember to review on Amazon and Goodreads — it’s most important to have reviews when people are looking at it, like now. Write to what you know, edit it later. It’s a promotional tool, that’s all reviews are for, don’t have to overthink it.

I’m way too tired after working about 24 hours on marketing to post much substantive today. We’ll resume #SteampunkMonth posting on Monday with some cool topics 🙂

 

 

For Steam And Country Media Round Up

Release day has gone AMAZING! We’re already up to #1 hot release for Steampunk books, which just floors me. As it stands now it’s hovering around #4,000 on Amazon overall (big!) and #4 in Steampunk overall. Huge thanks to everyone who picked the book up.

The book is here if you haven’t seen it. If you have, please leave a review now! Even if it’s short, write based on what you know. You can edit it later. What it does is shows people who are looking at Amazon that other folk are reading and approve of the book, which is huge for getting random folk to click: http://bit.ly/forsteamandcountry 

Also don’t forget to copy your reviews/ratings to goodreads, and add to the shelf there. If you want to spend more time, there’s lists, and if you upvote the book that’s a big help too:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35378932-for-steam-and-country

Again thanks everyone so much especially folk in Realm Makers, CLFA, Gab.ai, Pulp Revolution, Superversive, Clockwork Alchemy and any other groups I may have missed.

Below is all the cool media coverage I’ve gotten all over the internet today (at least that I could remember, sorry if I missed your site, add to the comments if I did!)

For Steam And Country Media Round-Up:

Prequel Flash Fiction Story:

http://www.uprisingreview.com/battle-cry-liliana/  (Most important! read this with the book!)

Guest Posts:

http://www.castaliahouse.com/steampunkmonth-recovering-a-genre-that-never-existed-by-jon-del-arroz/

http://maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/favorite-bit-jon-del-arroz-talks-steam-country/

http://jimbossffreviews.blogspot.com/2017/06/writing-from-different-perspective.html

 

The Awesome Music Video:

https://benzwycky.com/tag/for-steam-and-country/

 

Sample Of Audio :

http://www.superversivesf.com/2017/05/25/one-page-podcast-steam-country-jon-del-arroz/

 

Interviews:

https://brefaucheux.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/congrats-to-jon-del-arroz/

https://www.oddnugget.com/steam-powered-prose-jon-del-arroz-writer-interviews-1/

http://www.uprisingreview.com/author-interview-jon-del-arroz/

https://daniel-humphreys.net/2017/06/15/new-release-day-for-steam-and-country/

Reviews:

https://thecatholicgeeks.com/2017/06/15/review-of-jon-del-arrozs-for-steam-and-country/

http://www.steampunkchronicle.com/ArticleView/tabid/238/ArticleId/637/A-Maiden-Voyage.aspx

http://injusticegamer.blogspot.com/2017/06/injustice-quick-reviews-28.html

 

Mentions:

http://injusticegamer.blogspot.com/2017/06/injustice-quick-reviews-28.html

http://www.ljagilamplighter.com/2017/06/15/signal-boost-for-steam-and-country/

http://www.scifiwright.com/2017/06/for-steam-and-country-by-jon-del-arroz/

https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/267264/

http://www.bookhorde.org/2017/06/new-release-with-excerpt-for-steam-and.html

http://www.museled.com/2017/05/announcing-for-steam-and-country-by-jon.html

http://jimfear138.blogspot.com/2017/06/for-steam-and-country-is-available.html

 

 

Release Day!!!!

For Steam And Country is out! Today is the big day. I know you’ll really enjoy this book. Buy For Steam And Country, check it out, tell your friends. http://bit.ly/forsteamandcountry on Amazon now! Both paperback and ebook are available. Audiobook will be later. I’ll have guest blogs and interviews all over the internet today.

Synopsis:

Her father’s been pronounced dead. Destructive earthquakes ravage the countryside. An invading army looms over the horizon. And Zaira’s day is just getting started…

Abandoned at an early age, Zaira von Monocle found life as the daughter of a great adventurer to be filled with hard work and difficulty. She quickly learned to rely on only herself. But when a messenger brought news that her father was dead and that she was the heir to his airship, her world turned upside down.

Zaira soon finds herself trapped in the midst of a war between her home country of Rislandia and the cruel Wyranth Empire, whose soldiers are acting peculiarly—almost inhuman. With the enemy army advancing, her newfound ship’s crew may be the only ones who can save the kingdom.

For Steam and Country is the first book in the Adventures of Baron Von Monocle series by top-10 Amazon best selling space opera author, Jon Del Arroz.

 “Witty, charming and downright thrilling!  Del Arroz nails the feel of good old fashioned Steampunkery with wit, aplomb and of course… panache.” – Nick Cole, author of the Dragon Award winner, CTRL ALT Revolt

“FOR STEAM AND COUNTRY is a rousing girl-powered fantasy tale. I thoroughly enjoyed this action-packed airship adventure!” – Laurie Forest, author of The Black Witch

Excerpt:

Six people in dark clothes descended from the side of the ship’s hull, rappelling down long ropes. They hollered like maniacs, brandishing guns and swords.

Our guard stumbled backward, mouth agape. He shook where he stood, staring at me. His Wyranth uniform had several holes in it. Before he could do or say anything else, he fell to the ground.

Blood pooled around his body. I dragged my feet and backed away. Bile rose in my throat faster than I could suppress. I’d never seen a dead man before, let alone one killed so brutally.

The six commandos from the airship dropped to the ground. They spread out, five of them circling around me and James. One I recognized as Marina, but the sixth member of the party surprised me — Captain von Cravat. She glowered at me, but her attention shifted when more shots rang out.

One of the Liliana’s commandos collapsed. The three Wyranth soldiers who had left stood with their guns trained on us, using a nearby tree as cover. My rescuers returned fire, several shots hitting one of the Wyranth soldiers in the shoulder. He fell.

The other two Wyranth soldiers wasted no time. Major Anton moved the quickest, charging the circle of my rescuers. His companion fired his gun behind him to cover him, keeping Major Anton from getting shot. Before I could think to yelp, Major Anton had a knife to my throat.

For Steam And Country – Release Tomorrow – Your Marching Orders For The Grand Rislandian Army!

Tomorrow marks the release of For Steam And Country: Book One of The Adventures of Baron Von Monocle. I’m super thrilled to share this Steampunk fantasy novel with you. Reviewers are also loving the book. Steampunk Chronicle says it’s “a solid adventure tale, much in the mold of Patrick O’Brian.”

The goal is to make a huge splash on release day, and here’s how we’re going to do that together:

  1. Make sure to pick up a copy at http://bit.ly/forsteamandcountry (Remember, don’t buy this until tomorrow, Thursday, June 15th! We want the rankings to hit all on the same day)
  2. Share that link on all of your social media platforms and with any of your friends into fantasy/steampunk/science fiction. There’s a lot of Steampunk or book groups on Facebook, join and share! That does so much help you have no idea.
  3. Add it to your shelf, vote it up on the lists that it’s on so people see it. Leave a star rating. The link is here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35378932-for-steam-and-country
  4. Leave an Amazon review. Even if you’re only a few pages in, people who come to Amazon look for reviews to see how many other people are into something. You can edit it later when you’ve finished, but we need as many showing as possible day one. Write to what you know, be honest, but post it up there!
  5. If you’re on Gab.ai, we are taking over there. Post all day with the hashtag #ForSteamAndCountry so we can get a trending topic going. If you’re not, sign up: http://gab.ai . It’s easy and free. It’s a new social network and the people there are very friendly. It’ll take about 200 posts to get this trending, and I need your help! Talk about everything, ask questions, use the hashtag. I’m @otomo on there if you want to tag me. Can do this on Twitter as well of course. Please tag me with #Steampunk on there at least so this book comes up on that hashtag. Gab is my primary focus, however.

Then keep telling your friends. If you want, let your favorite authors know if you find my writing like their work. Get them to share too. It’s all about the multiplier effect of social media. Trust me, I’ve gotten some crazy things going before, and this time it’s about an AWESOME book so it should be easy. Everyone will love For Steam And Country, young and old.

On a side note. I have beautiful bookmarks to give out. I’ll mail them out to anyone who’s interested free of charge. Leave a comment below if you do, and I’ll grab your email from there and get your address.

Thank you so much for your support. It means a ton to me. I try to acknowledge everyone as best I can, but every single person who reads my work means the world. You’re the best readers anyone could ever hope for, and I hope to keep providing great books to you for years to come.

Tally ho! For Steam And Country!

For Steam And Country — The Song!

I am not sure it’s going to ever get much cooler than this, even when the book comes out. A wonderful person by the name of Ben Zwycky came to me a few weeks ago and told me he’d written lyrics based on my work (Ben also did some copyediting/proofreading on the book, thank you Ben for working overtime and producing this creative masterpiece!). I thought that by itself was really exciting, and that it was fun.

Then I found out that he’d gotten musician Sean McCleery involved and they set the lyrics to a tune, and Sean provided some really awesome music that sounds like a great military hymn/march. And I’m pleased to share that with you today. Please allow me to present, “Do You See The Cyrstal Spire”

 

Do you see the Crystal Spire
That adorns Rislandia?
You’ll want to join the Crystal Knights
To guard her land, her sea, her air.

When the beating of your heart
Echoes the thundering of the guns,
Then you’ll be sure to play your part
When the battle comes.

The invading Wyranth soldiers’ eyes
Emit an eerie glow;
The ground is shaken by a force
Whose source you’d like to know;
So now climb up this rope,
Renew your old hope as we go!

Do you hear the turbines roar
As we soar into the sky?
This great airship offers more
Than just a simple earthbound life.

When the fire within your heart
Mirrors the glorious setting sun,
Then you’ll be sure to play your part
When adventure comes.

Super thematic and beautiful. You’ll learn all about the Crystal Spire, the knights, and the Wyrath soldier on Thursday when For Steam And Country is released!

#SteampunkMonth Retro Review: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

I had originally thought that this would a short read, something quick that I could get into and show its influence on the streampunk genre, as in steampunk communities, this book is talked about regularly. I’d considered it proto-steampunk from my loose memory of it as a child. Perhaps its due to its attitude, just the time that it was released, but because it was such a slow read it took me a couple of weeks to get through.

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne actually opens in a very nice manner, with an omniscient perspective explaining the disappearances of several ships over years. They’re destroyed, people are worried about a giant sea monster. I was pretty intrigued and excited.

It switches to the perspective of a scientist who is brought aboard a vessel along with a Canadian harpoonist to take down this monster that’s plaguing the oceans. Action occurs here very nicely, as the twist is that it’s not a monster at all – it’s a big metal submarine contrapction! Their boat gets sank, they’re about to die and they’re brought into this strange submarine as prisoners. They’re held in the dark for a long time, wondering what their fate will be, until they’re informed by Captain Nemo they have a choice – join with the Nautalis and vow never to leave, or die. So far so good. I’m intrigued. I wonder why Nemo is so angry and taking down these ships, it’s touched on a little, but never fully explained. Perhaps it’s a mystery that will get explored along with the depths.

And that’s about where the book stops being interesting. They travel around the world, going to different areas. Different geographical regions are explained. Different undersea creatures are explained. And when I say explained I’m talking paragraphs that take up 2-3 pages going into absurd detail like this is some sort of academic journal. Maybe it’s just the deep perspective but yikes. It repeats this for the whole book.

There is some narrative in there as well. The heroes want to escape this creepy Captain Nemo. They keep plotting. Nemo keeps disappearing for hours/days on end and they don’t see him, only to return so they can se something. Something happens so they can’t escape. They forget about it and get lost in the wonder. A few chapters later repeat.

That’s my major qualm, the repetition. It’s over and over. Nothing builds. No tension gets escalated, it’s just more cataloguing and more “Captain Nemo is mysterious and melancholy!” which we were already told. There’s a couple cool parts – a fight with sharks, running from savage natives as they blast them with an electrified hull of the ship, there’s some cool steampunk feel right there, and later when they kinda do battle with a ship hunting them, but it’s sparse between the description.

I’ve read a lot about how there were originally intended themes of anti-imperialism, etc. that Verne really wanted to play up in his battle against various empires, but the edited version of the book we got removed most of that content. Perhaps that’s the case. It’s a cool concept, this submarine contraption. During the day that alone may have been enough to make this book a hit, now if it were described a little better would provide a cool alt-history content take. However, all the cool promises of that didn’t really get fulfilled. Instead we got a catalogue of fish.

I was pretty disappointed. It’s a really tough read. It has some historical value but I wish I could say this was something that would be more inspiring.  4/10

#Steampunk Month Guest Post: Author J.M. Anjewierden

This marks the first time I’ve ever had a guest post on my blog. Not sure how often I’ll do it but I saw that J.M. here had a really awesome Steampunk novel released this week, and invited him to come talk about his release a little bit. The book is Penny Dreadful and the Clockwork Copper, and it is available now on Amazon here.

 

Here’s what J.M. Anjewierden has to say about Steampunk and Penny Dreadful:

Steampunk Month. What a time to be alive! While I’m mostly here to talk about my own new Steampunk novel I’m going to cover some other ground as well, so strap in.

First, who am I?

Well, glad you asked. I am J. M. Anjewierden, author extraordinaire, librarian defender of truly free speech, and possessor of the magnificent beard of mystery.

I have two books out this year, the first of which is ‘The Long Black,’ a Space Opera/Blue Collar story about a starship mechanic, but that’s not why we’re here today. Oh no. You want to hear about the other one, the newly released ‘Penny Dreadful and the Clockwork Copper.’

(Blurb) Viva-3 was built to discover secrets. But they made her too well. She’s the perfect spy: the lethality and persistence of the police clockworks in a body that can pass as human. What the Empire’s police don’t know is that she doesn’t have to obey their orders or her programming. She can think and decide for herself. And she’s doomed if they find out.

Viva is sent undercover with orders to unmask the city’s vigilante hero, Penny Dreadful. She is supposed to stop his one-man war against the criminals of Monte-Ostrum. It will be dangerous, but just maybe Dreadful will be more useful as an ally rather than an enemy… (End Blurb)

 

Penny Dreadful is, of course, a familiar term to any long-time fan of Steampunk, and literature in general. Most recently attached to a horror TV show, it originally was a term for the cheap mass produced stories sold for – of course – a penny.

So that is reason number one for referencing that in my work: The Penny Dreadfuls were the Pulps of their day, and I am firmly in the camp that the Pulps were the Golden Age of SF/F, and further that ebooks represent a chance to recapture the best parts of the Pulp Era. Especially since digital publishing frees the author from the limited publishing schedule of the major houses, often only one book per year. As with anything else, practice makes perfect, and an author who can put out five, six, or more books a year will generally be able to improve their product faster than someone limited to one new release each year.

As for the other reason, well, that requires I bring in my lovely editor, Miss CJ, whose day job is writing for the Chicks on the Right website. (Yep. I married my editor. Very much a time saver, assuming she doesn’t start to go soft on the parts I write none too good. I think we’ll be fine though, I married her first: Most authors who run into trouble with editors no longer editing harshly enough married them second.)

Miss CJ: Penny Dreadful came about – believe it or not – based on a character from a tabletop RPG we tried out with our gaming group. We spent several sessions playing “Airship Pirates,” an indie published steampunk RPG set in the world of the band Abney Park.

I came up with a character who was part of the nobility, but who tired of the tediousness of noble life and wanted to do something more than simply “be a noble.” Also – the character needed skills to serve on a crew of airship pirates. This character spun out into the vigilante, Penny Dreadful. It’s always sounded like a name to do something fun with (and if you read the book, you might also notice there’s also some clever pun work at play. Spoilers, sweeties). Also, it was hilarious during the course of our RPG campaign to have Penny Dreadful run into “fans” who’d read about Penny Dreadful’s adventures in penny dreadful novels.

  1. M.: Yep, Penny Dreadful started out as an RPG character. Honestly, I imagine there quite a few characters and series kicking around that started the same way.

There is an interesting thing to point out with RPG conversions, though. I’m sure you all know that video game movies are just about always rubbish, right?

Have you ever wondered why that is? True, part of it is simply that the producers and directors (and screenplay writers) often have no idea what makes the property tick, but it also goes back to what the medium does well, and does not do well. Video Games (like RPGs) derive a lot of their impact for the audience because of choices, and potential choices. Do I play a wizard, or a fighter? Do I sneak into the building, or go in guns blazing? Those choices give the narrative more impact, because the player will always wonder, what would have happened if…

With a film or TV series that element of choice is lost. Without it the power of the narrative starts to weaken, and that is dangerous because that strong narrative is often all that sustains the property through long bouts of (gloriously) gratuitous fight scenes.

That’s why, in my not so humble opinion, I find that the best adaptations of RPG characters and worlds pointedly focus on things other than the actual game campaign. They might be prequels, or sequels, or origin stories. They might also just take the setting and run with it in new and interesting ways.

In my case I adapted the origin story rather than the campaign arc. Yeah, at the beginning of the game the characters are on an airship working as Sky Pirates, (it is in the name after all) but that isn’t where they started. That is the story of Penny Dreadful and the Clockwork Copper.

Also, I stress to add, I adapted the backstory because I have no desire to steal the creations of Abney Park. They are one of my favorite bands, and their Steampunk is freaking awesome. Aside from having airships and pirates in said airships there is not much in common between the setting they present in their fun RPG and in my book.

In fact, while I already have a rough outline for the next book in the series, it has nothing to do with the campaign we played last year. That story will probably never appear in the sequels. Funnily enough, as a writer I have all those same choices and more as I do when playing a game, and those what ifs have siren calls…

One other thing I wanted to touch on, and I promise this is the last one, since if I indulge in any more tangents you’ll be here all day. (Or more likely not. Better I don’t wear out my welcome.)

Clockwork Copper, why call them that? Part of it is obvious, Cop(per) has been a nickname for the police for quite a long time, and applying it to an artificial policeman actually made out of metal was too good to pass up.

Of course, as the blurb notes, Viva-3 is a copper, but not a metal one. The first instinct would be to name them something else, but stop and think about it. Words persist long after the reasons for their original meaning is no longer relevant.

Heck, just look at the save icon in pretty much any program you use. When was the last time you actually had to put in a 3.5” floppy disk to save? Yet the icon persists.

So, yeah, referring to flesh and bone constructs as clockworks is silly, but no more silly than talking about Xeroxes, or using a floppy disk as the save icon.

As the joke goes, ‘Fiction is harder to write than reality. Fiction has to make sense.” That’s true in a lot of ways, but I find that adding a bit of that real life weirdness into books helps them feel a bit more real to the readers, and of course that helps you enjoy them more.

And after all, it’s my job to entertain you.

And this monkey intends to keep on dancing.