Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Steam Magnate

Well, I've been researching a variety of publishers, partly because I haven't heard back from the one that has Darkness (not even responding to my follow-up queries) and partly for future things. So one I've been intrigued by ever since I learned that they're publishing Zoran Zivkovic, is Aio. A few weeks ago, one of their authors, Dana Copithorne, recently guest blogged for a week on Jeff VanderMeer's blog, so I decided to check out her book The Steam Magnate.

I finished it last night, and I thought I'd jot down a couple reactions. Does the fact that I'm interested in submitting to the publisher make me more charitable to it than I otherwise would be? It's possible, but I think I can be fair.

First, the book itself as a physical object. It's wonderful. On their webiste, Aio talks of producing books that will be treasured for more than just the story they tell, and they succeed. Before I picked this up, I wasn't sure exactly how much that would affect me--a book is a book, right? But the quality of the paper and just the feel of the book...it's like it has weight that your typical paperbacks don't. I liked to just carry it around even when I wasn't going to have the chance to read it. The book also contains illustrations painted by the author, which adds a nice touch.

So what about the story? Two things jump out at me. First, it's beautifully told. The author clearly cares about language, isn't just throwing the words at the reader to get a meaning across. And the words themselves are working to evoke an entire, strange world that's unlike any other fantasy I've read. There's a poetic quality to the way we see Broken Glass City especially. The northern territories and the coast also rise from the page, but it's the city itself that stands out.

Which really gets into the second thing that drew me in--the setting and society. It's completely unlike typical speculative fiction--neither pseudo-medieval nor futuristic high-tech. Not steam punk, though steam power is important to the world. Certainly not ancient. In many ways it feels like a modern world, with telephones and trains (though no guns or planes), a high awareness of museums and works of art and nightclubs. But in other ways there's an archaic, mythic quality to it. This will unsettle some readers wanting to understand the world better, but it ends up being fun*. That's probably the strongest part of it--its uniqueness. The setting itself and also the story told--of a strange magic or contracts and electrical power, of a member of an insulated community within the Broken Glass City and his desire to step beyond expectations but not beyond his people--it's all unlike anything I've read. There's no hint of cliched storylines or characters or anything.

It's not perfect. I was a bit disappointed in the ending--some of it felt rushed with how it all came to a head (though since I just finished it last night, I may decide eventually that I liked how it worked). And I would have liked to see more of Jado and his ethnically insular community. There's also a hint of the characters re-enacting an ancient myth of another ethnic group, but this doesn't seem fully played out...though I believe a sequel is coming, which could develop that more.

In all, it's a very good book for those looking for something different.

And now I've read it, what are my thoughts about whether Aio will be interested in my novel? I am definitely still interested in submitting it. It's not a big press, but I'd be very proud to have my book produced so beautifully. Mine is--superficially at least--much closer to standard fantasy. It's still a ways off from that, but closer. When I started it (5 years ago now!), I consciously told myself I'd accept many of the trappings of fantasy, but anytime something felt like it was nearing a cliche, I'd veer away, sometimes actively subverting them. Still, the story does involve swords and battles, even if that's not the primary focus. So we shall see what happens. I'm currently tweaking the manuscript a bit, but I hope to send it out to them (or someone else, if I become convinced it'd do better elsewhere) fairly soon.

So wish me luck! And while you're at it, go check out The Steam Magnate.

*(and I'd love to see a map--but I just love maps in general, whether of the real world or any other)

15 comments:

visionbird said...

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for your very in depth and fair review of my book! I'm glad you enjoyed it and honoured that you reviewed it. Yes, their will be another book in this mosaic series, hopefully more. I'd like them to be stand alone works that can be read in any order but are interrelated. One of them will focus on Jado's story and culture, which I'm keen to develop further.
Keep writing and best of luck with your books,

Dana

visionbird said...

As an added note, I'll work on getting a map out there at some point!

Dana

visionbird said...

An additional added note, it's 'Copithorne' not 'Copipthorne'.

Thanks! :D

Dana

Daniel Ausema said...

Thanks for stopping by, and I look forward to the other books! And the map :) (And sorry about that typo--I guess I was typing too fast, but it's fixed now! :) )

visionbird said...

Thanks!
By the way, I'd like to link to your blog from mine, but I don't know how to make blogger do so (any insights?). My blog is www.danaworld.blogspot.com
though it's mostly showcasing a couple of my paintings right now.

cheers,
Dana

Daniel Ausema said...

No problem. What exactly do you want to do? Link to this specific entry within an entry of yours? Then click on the title of the entry under Previous Posts and get the address there. Actually, here it is: http://danielausema.blogspot.com/2006/12/steam-magnate-well-ive-been.html

Or is it something else you wanted to do?

visionbird said...

Hi,

This is a good idea, too. Actually, I wanted to start a list of names down the side with links to your blog and a couple of others. (The stanard list that most people have) I just can't find the place in blogger where you set up the list of links.

Thanks!
Dana

Daniel Ausema said...

Oh yeah, that's sort of confusing with blogger. Go to editing your template, and you'll have to go a ways down until you find "Google News" and then "Edit-Me" twice. The Edit Me lines should show you the code to use to put in links. It's pretty straightforward if you're familiar with html, and even if not just follow the pattern that the Google News link uses.

Feel free to let me know if you get stuck.

visionbird said...

Thanks Daniel! I wondered where they'd hidden it. I'll link the site in soon, though I tend to be lazy about blogging. I think part of me just wants to keep the paintings at the top of the page!

Cheers and Happy Holiday decorating!
Dana

Daniel Ausema said...

No problem, and thanks for the holiday wishes!

Samantha Iriks said...

Sounds like a very interesting book. And the author sounds lovely too. :)

If I can find a copy in my small corner of the world, I'll pick it up.

Thanks for the review, Dan.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Samantha!

It should be available in most places. (If not on the shelf then by request.)

(Requesting it for a local library is another option!)

Cheers :)
Dana

Daniel Ausema said...

Sam is Australian--does Aio sell books in Australia, Dana? I imagine she could purchase it directly from their website otherwise, right?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dan and Sam,

Yes, you can get it on-line from Aio. They have an international ordering page, and offer good shipping prices. http://www.aiopublishing.com/Bookstore/internationalbookstore.htm

Otherwise, the book should be available on-line at booktopia (which I had't heard of, but just saw the book on their site). The major booksellers in North America and UK have it for request, so I'd imagine the big bookstores in Australia would have it, too. (We're still working on getting it onto the shelves in the big stores)

If you have an independent bookstore that you like, they'd probably stock it for you. (It'd be cool to get it into some small shops in far-away places!)

Thanks for being interested in my book!

Cheers,
Dana :)
(I'll keep checking back here, and I can be reached by comment on my blog, too.)

Anonymous said...

Sorry, the web address for the order page got cut off the last comment:

http://www.aiopublishing.com
/Bookstore/internationalbookstore.htm

:)