The Steampunk Trilogy

The Steampunk Trilogy - Paul Di Filippo This is actually a collection of three novellas, 'Victoria', 'Hottentots' and 'Walt and Emily'.

In 'Victoria', we find ourselves firstly in 1838 in the company of Cosmo Cowperthwait a hit and miss inventor. Cowperthwait should by rights be dictating his story from a death row prison cell as such are the enormity of his crimes against humanity, his parents, newts and womankind. He is an odious little man, with very few redeeming features. His greatest invention is a hybrid human-newt that he has named Victoria and ensconced as a prostitute in a brothel. Our faux human just happens to look like the yet to be crowned queen of England, and is called upon to step in when the real one goes off to get a life. Cosmo spends most of his story pointlessly scuttling around London looking for the real queen. He faces a shadowy nemesis and attempts on his life, but by his side at almost all times is his faithful manservant, Nails McGroaty, the only albeit dim light in a dull story.

In 'Hottentots', we have our main focus on Swiss scientist Louis Agassiz an odious virulently racist philandering little twerp, again with no redeeming features. Leaving his wife and children behind he heads off to America to give the populace the benefit of his combined wisdom in medicine, paleontology, ichthyology and zoology, amongst other subjects. He tells us not once, but several times his loathsome feelings on miscegenation. You can therefore understand his chagrin when a white South-African and his black Hottentot wife ask for his help in regaining a magical artifact, only when he realizes that there might be something in it for him does he readily agree. What then follows is a romp searching for a 3ft African witch doctor, before he can cast a much dreaded spell. Being as we have been so focused on Agassiz's racism, it should come as no shock that it will be used against him as the story progresses. If both he and the reader were meant to learn something worthwhile as a result, the test failed spectacularly for this reader.

The worst crime in this novella, the speech patterns of the South African character Jacob Cezar,'You know chust vhere der nearest Ztation ist?' Given that Mr Cezar did a lot of talking let me tell you that it was a zucking painz in der arse.

Finally, 'Walt and Emily', instead of an odious little man we get an odious little woman as our lead. Was real life poet Emily Dickinson really that bad?

All three were over long, containing far too much filler and might have made a better impression if they had been sharpened down to short story length.

If many of the supporting casts had been allowed to develop, they would have provided better foils for the three unpleasant leads.

My plea, do not let this volume put you off reading other works by Di Filippo.

My verdict disappointing.

(I have been asked by the publisher to review Cosmocopia due for release Sept, by Paul Di Filippo).

Received from the publisher for an honest review.