Jon Del Arroz’s Definitive Top 5 Steampunk Books

It’s #SteampunkMonth in honor of Superversive Press’s first full length novel release, For Steam And Country, which will be available in all of your favorite online retailers on Thursday, June 15th.

As such, it’s time for another of Jon Del Arroz’s Definitive Top 5 lists! One I know a lot of people have been waiting for since #SteampunkMonth began.

The steampunk genre of literature is a pretty small market, not overexposed like many other subgenres of fantasy. There are a few works even in such a small crop that do stand out, and without further ado, here’s the list:

  1. Gail Carriger – Soulless. Ms. Carriger really is almost like the fairy god-mother of steampunk. Everyone seems to know who she is. Everyone loves her vivid descriptions of Victorian England, carriages, high tea times, and of course the beautiful attire worn by the aristocracy of the time. She was one of the first to emerge on the scene and embrace Steampunk, and with Soulless, she brought a book that was anything but, as I found it completely soulful and full of passion. It does feel a lot more like a romance with fantasy elements rather than the other way around, so be aware with that going in, and you’ll enjoy this world of werewolves and vampires that her heroine has been thrust into.

  1. Robyn Bennis – The Guns Above. I started reading this one last week, and it’s already made it into my top five. I’m currently very enthralled with this fantasy world that’s perpetually at war, where the costs of war are shown and realized. The protragonist is grinding through a really tough society, and finds herself in command of an airship after the opening of an intense battle. I can’t speak to the ending yet, but I’m so enthralled this made the list.

  1. Jean Rabe and Martin Greenburg (Editors) – Steampunk’d. Not many top lists of mine will have an anthology in it, but this one does. I really got into steampunk after cosplaying and then reading this book. It’s got a lot of incredible stories, including one of my favorite shorts of all times “Portrait of a Lady with a Monocle” by Jody Lynn Nye. You get a nice breadth of imaginative stories that give a good feel for what Steampunk is.

  1. Cherie Priest –Boneshaker. This is a story set in late 1800s alternate Seattle, where some experiment went drastically wrong and there’s this whole area that’s been walled off, as some gas that came up from the ground when it was being mined turned people into zombie-like creatures. This woman Blair’s husband was held responsible, and her son traverses into the walled off area to try to clear his name. She tries to track her son down and has to deal with all the horrors inside to rescue him. It also has one of my favorite book covers of all time.

  1. Beth Cato – Clockwork Dagger. This was an airship travel adventure like I always wanted. It’s a bit on the lighter side, which I love. There’s secret agents, secret royalties, secret romance and it comes to an epic conclusion. I love Octavia, the main character, and the cool medicine and the religious aspect intertwined with that. Cato made being a healer cool, and made a stellar fantasy universe.

#SpaceOperaWeek: Five Current Space Operas You Should Be Reading

Yesterday I posted a definitive list of all-time best space operas, but there are some current new ones that provide a fresh take on the genre as well. I’m assuming you’ve already read my Star Realms: Rescue Run, so here’s what I’m excited to be reading lately:

1. The Revelations Cycle Series by Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy. Mechs. Monsters. Aliens. Mercs. This series is pure space opera fun with a really well-detailed world. The first book, Cartwright’s Cavaliers deals with one of the major human merc companies going through a bankruptcy and a young man inheriting the mantle to take it over and make it great again. It’s riveting fun all the way through, and you’ll love the CASPer mech suit action the whole way through. I Haven’t read the second book yet, but it’s on my short list to read soon!

2. Excalibur by Tim Marquitz. When I opened this up I felt like I was living what I wanted out of the Babylon 5 spinoff series Crusade that they never got around to delivering me. We have a somewhat disgraced captain who has been doing special jobs for the Covenant on the side with his band of fun and supremely competent crewmen. His ship is made of stolen alien tech — and those aliens are back in force, but for some reason, the fleet is caught with their pants down. It’s up to him to save the galaxy.

3. The Maxwell Saga by Peter Grant. I just picked up Take The Star Road, the first in a currently five book series. This is a Horatio Alger in space type of story, where we have a man picking up and working on a trading vessel to get experience to go join up with a colony that promises opportunity. A fun read the whole way, and he gets caught up with a Yakuza-type crime syndicate and their ancient legends. I’ve been told we can expect a new book in the series around Christmas.

4. The Darkship Series by Sarah Hoyt. There’s a world out there of genetically modified humans that is just rumor to the denziens of earth.They’re supposed to be terrible people to be eradicated, but our hero learns to love the people of Eden, or should I say a person of Eden, as adventure unfolds and nothing is what it seems. Lots of action and romance in this one. A new installment, Darkship Revenge, just came out a couple weeks ago!

5. A Greater Duty by Yakov Merkin. I just picked this one up, as it came out a couple of days ago, but it promises a lot of cool alien species, epic battles with a Galactic Alliance, and as a member of the #PulpRevolution, I know Yakov will have great instincts for a fun, dynamic story. It’s also edited by Superversive Press’s Ben Zwycky.

Jon Del Arroz’s Definitive Top 5: Space Opera Series

It’s #SpaceOperaWeek and I can think of no better way to launch my first regular Superversive column than to celebrate the genre in which I write and love. I’ll be doing more top fives as they feel appropriate, but as a writer of Space Opera, it makes a lot of sense to launch in celebration of some of my greatest influences. Naturally, these are just my opinions, so I expect outrage, disagreement, fist shaking, and the like at my choices. Just know that you’re wrong. It says definitive in the title, and we all know the internet never lies.

Without further ado, your Space Opera Top Five!

5. The Serrano Legacy – Elizabeth Moon wrote what at first feels like a light romp in the vein of “The Most Dangerous Game.” At the same time she has a compelling background with the Famlias and their political influence over the Fleet that both hampers and helps our heroes at different times. The characters are about the easiest to get attached to in science fiction, and when you get to the third book in the first trilogy – you start to see some really cool sci-fi concepts in a rejuvenation treatment that makes the elderly young again, and its consequences to society. Moon uses the universe as a backdrop for other stories from there, always relating to the Serranos and their influence over the fleet. From a pure fun perspective, this work is some of my favorite.

4. Hyperion Cantos – Dan Simmons shows the depth of imagination that Space Opera can attain. This series mixes literary prowess with Indiana Jones in space style fun. While the later books aren’t as good as the first couple installments, Simmons left his mark on the Space Opera genre and most modern authors riff off of his concepts even if subconsciously.

3. Star Wars: Thrawn Trilogy – Tie in fiction is looked down on quite a bit, and I actually will differentiate this from the Star Wars films, as we’re focusing on literary fiction for the purposes of this post. Honestly, this series stands on its own. One doesn’t even have to have seen Star Wars to enjoy the depth of character, the machinations of the supreme strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn, the coming to prominence of Mara Jade, or all of the other wonderful facets of this series. It takes Star Wars and adds real depth and gravitas to the universe. There are very few examples of space opera out there that are finer.

2. Lensman – The original Space Opera by E.E. “Doc” Smith. He wrote this over the course of his life. Two epic alien species the Arisians and The Eddorians toying with the younger races like humanity in order to try to assert their will over the galaxy. These books are short, action packed, and they have a great punch to them. This series has inspired the likes of Star Wars and Babylon 5, and still is some of the most impactful work in the genre to this day.

1. The Vorkosigan Saga – This is a series by multiple Hugo winner Lois McMasterBujold, which debuted in the early 1980s. Originally penned as Star Trek fanfiction, the world was launched with Shards of Honor, a romance story in space about lovers from two worlds with completely different values. Though this is one of the lighter stories in the universe, it grew from there as we next met Miles Vorkosigan, the series’ main protagonist in The Warrior’s Apprentice. It’s got sweeping empires, weird body modifications, a great fleet battle, mercenaries, spies, about everything you’d want out of a book. And while that book shaped my interest in the genre in my youth, the series honestly only gets much better as it goes along. Lois hit on every mark possible in space opera and plays with a number of different story archetypes.
Jon Del Arroz is the author of the Alliance Award nominated and top-10 Amazon bestselling Space Opera, Star Realms: Rescue Run. His second novel, For Steam And Country, is set to be released by Superversive Press this summer. He is considered to be the leading Hispanic voice in Science Fiction, and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. He regularly posts to his popular Science Fiction blog at http://delarroz.com. Twitter: @jondelarroz Gab.ai: @otomo