Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Review: The Steam Punk



I do like the cover on this one. The play on the Vitruvian Man is clever, and at the same time, it focuses completely on the most important element of the story – the mech suit. There's even the wheel with the three coloured stones in it.

The novel itself was kind of Iron Man meets Final Fantasy VII. I enjoyed the world-building. The main magic in the world consists of people capable of manipulating the surges – essentially an elemental type of magic. There are fire surges, water, air, earth, lightning, and, well, pretty much all the   magic types in Final Fantasy. Fairly standard, but then there's the steampunk element where the author throws in technology that allows people with no natural ability to manipulate the surges to use them by drawing it from crystallized forms of those elements. Basically, FFVII materia. You stick it in your weapon/mech suit, and it gives you magic powers. And I've always liked the idea of magic combined with technology. That's probably why I love Final Fantasy. Did I mention I love Final fantasy? I do.

Then there was the society. It's a land colonized by an empire. The Imperials in control look down their noses at the native Oryegan populace, abuses their power, and does pretty much what every colonizing people has done to the native populace in the area. I did notice though, that the technology level of the two – natives and colonizers – was fairly close. There was never mention of one having superior technology, only of the Tirtirian colonizers considering the Oryegans socially inferior.

That made me wonder, because that aspect of the novel seemed real enough to me to think the author must have spent some significant time somewhere that is or has been colonized. Then I read he currently lives in Korea, and had to check Wikipedia, because I had no idea Korea had been colonized by Japan.

The spot I felt the world-building was a bit lacking though, was the technology itself. While I appreciate the difficulty in describing how magic interacts with real mechanics, but the descriptions of that element waxed a tad vague.

The plot was a fairly predictable superhero plot – Yulo sees people suffering and uses his special talents to fight it. Only it's a little fresher in that instead of fighting crime to uphold the law because the law needs his help, even though he works outside it, here, the Empire seems to be the enemy. And I never identified with Superman and Spiderman, myself. Growing up, my favourite heroes were Robin Hood and Zorro - outlaws fighting a corrupt government. So naturally, that goes over well with me.

The characters were fairly stock –  orphaned Yulo, being raised by his uncle, with his bull headed, rush into everything attitude. His friend Marus who blindly supports the law no matter what. Then there was Kyrina, Yulo's cousin, though they have a sibling relationship. She has a thing for Marus, but it was nice to not fall into the love triangle pit here.

The writing itself was a little precocious, but possibly not worse style wise than the debut novels of some of my favourite authors. The copy editing on the other hand, left something to be desired. After the first 20 pages with no typos, there was a typo about every five pages through the rest of the book. If that drives you nuts, be warned.

But overall, I enjoyed it - four out of eight cylinders.

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