Steampunk and Alan Shaw…

Steampunk is a broad, and occasionally elusive, church. You can, in point of fact, stick a top hat on a story, liberally sprinkle around a few cog-wheels, the odd bit of clockwork, a corset or two and voila, you have steampunk… At least that’s a common misconception. In point of fact, you don’t really need any of those things.  Not that a liberal use of corset’s and clockwork never goes amiss. What you need most of all is a sense of wonder, a sense of the absurd, the uncanny, a naivety and a feel for a period of time that almost but never quite existed, and the forefathers of science fiction, Wells, Verne, Ellis, Stevenson and Twain…  But that’s just my opinion, and as I say its a broad church, so whom am I to define what is steampunk and what is not…

Which brings me to the reason for this particular post, which is about a novel which is everything I love about Steampunk, and ticks every one of those boxes I listed. Not you may be glad to hear one of mine. But ‘The Adventures Of Alan Shaw’ by Craig Hallam.

The novel, set out in many ways as a set of shorter tales with common threads, follows the adventures of the title character. From his lowly beginnings as a gutter rat orphan on the streets of old mother London, through a series of increasing odd adventures, throughout which the hero grows in reputation and bravado until it climax’s far form foggy old London in the depths of Imperial India where all the bravado and reputation in the world cannot save Shaw from his own conscience.

What makes this such a fun ride, however, is not so much the journey of Shaw from childhood to man, but the people and places he crosses along his journey. That and the nieve, old-fashioned, pulpy nature of the tales. Indeed that is what I enjoyed the most about this journey. The stories have much of old ‘The Strand Magazine’ pulp about them. The kind of tales that resided alongside the Sherlock Holmes stories of Doyle, the tales Wells published there, Kipling, Christie and so many others. The story is king here, not the whys and hows of the technology. I don’t care how the Automatons work, or the squid tentacled submarine, or the air-ship with its feisty French girl mechanic, or the brass monkeys, the strangely faceless acrobats, or anything else. It’s enough that they work within the world they inhabit. A magician should never reveal the whole trick after all.

There is a lot that is pulp here, but I say that without intending to be dismissive, quite the reverse, this is clever, well constructed, thoughtfully put together pulp. It’s fast and furious and throws you enough blind alleys that you’re never entirely sure where it is going and what is going to crop up. Especially what is going to crop up. There was more than one time along the way I thought I spotted a story thread that never happened. Perhaps because I expect a certain degree of melodrama in a novel. Instead of melodrama Hallam opted for drama, and never let things become mellow. Its fast paced and swings about wildly, yet he has kept a real sense of place and time. This really is fiction that could have been written for The Strand Magazine as speculative fiction, or indeed the likes of weird tales and others.

Yet, despite this old feel to it, Hallam manages at the same time to retain a modern sensibility and strength to the novel. It’s delightfully strange at times, yet wonderfully readable.  Which is a really neat trick, take it from me…

Or don’t, instead just have a read of the free sample on Amazon, then I defy you not to buy it…

I’ve read a lot of old pulp, and regular reads of these witterings could no doubt attest. I like old pulp, even when I am trawling through another Lovecraft story or delving into a bit of middling Poe. There is a feel to it that some modern novelists never attain, a sense of anything being possible that just takes you down the road with it…


Clearly, when I am doing my best to encourage you, dear reader, to read some steampunk by the delightful Mr Hallam esq, it would be obtuse of me, and indeed a little uncouth to make mention of another author recently released steampunk novelette…

But I am from Yorkshire, and Hannibal almost certainly would…..

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This entry was posted in amreading, book reviews, books, fiction, goodreads, Hannibal Smyth, indie, indie novels, opinion, pointless things of wonderfulness, reads, sci-fi, steampunk, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Steampunk and Alan Shaw…

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