A place to think, reflect, and talk (mostly to myself) about books I love…and a few that I don't.

Book Review: The Art of Steampunk by Art Donovan June 27, 2011

Filed under: Books,Nonfiction,Steampunk — Booknotized @ 3:43 pm
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Release Date: August 1, 2011
Publisher: Fox Chapel


I received a copy of this book as a courtesy from the team at Fox Chapel after running into them at BEA2011 this past month in my professional capacity. I’m not sure they knew I was also a book blogger, but this one was too exciting not to talk about.

A fan of steampunk literature, I was immediately intrigued by the content. So used to building the worlds in my head, coupled together from snippets I’ve seen of Victorian technology and fashion, tidbits of old Jules Verne and the more recent Wild Wild West (1999) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) films, I was psyched about seeing some of the world come to real, hard life. After all, imagination has its limits. What better way to flesh it out than with photographs?

And, in The Art of Steampunk, the steampunk world really does take full form. Inside are well over 100 full color photos of some of the most intricate and finely crafted oddities you’ll ever see. From Eric Freitas’ exquisite and ethereal clocks, to Kris Kuksi’s detailed warships—oh, and don’t miss Richard Nagy’s fully-functioning brass, leather, and copper laptops—the 17 artists showcased here have really populated the world of idea with extraordinary reality. Their pieces, all exhibited at Oxford University’s Museum of the History of Science 2009-10 Steampunk show (curator, Art Donovan), will make you catch your breath. The intricate delicacy, brassy trim work, and tongue-in-cheek aplomb continually snagged me between the urgent desire to linger and the giddy itch to flip to the next discovery. Truly, whether chuckling or scrutinizing, you can’t help but marvel at the all-around genius of their painstaking handiwork.

The only flaw I saw in the book was its overemphasis on preserving the details of the Oxford exhibition, which I fear may give shelf-browsers the impression that it’s more a commemorative booklet of the event than a printed showcase of the art. However, as redundant as the forward, introduction, and introductory essay become by page 33, the front matter does contain some truly enlightening information about steampunk subculture and its art that explicate in enough detail to enlighten both newcomers and die-hard fans alike.

Verdict? A must for the avid steampunker.


3 Responses to “Book Review: The Art of Steampunk by Art Donovan”

  1. Adam Volle Says:

    At first my heart soared to hear you mention THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, but then it broke in disappointment on realizing you meant the movie.

    Do check out the trade paperback edition of the comic (or “graphic novel”, if you archly prefer) sometime. The writer, Alan Moore, has never had a good film adaptation made of anything he’s ever done (a perfectly fair comparison to Hollywood’s treatment of his work would be comparing the movie ROMEO + JULIET to Shakespeare), but he is quite literally a genius, if a half-crazed one. I’m not sure whether he still worships a snake god or not.

    Not to digress: The LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN series is so full of literary references I’d say I caught less than half of what I eventually found in annotations online. It is a bibliophile’s delight.

    • Nice!! Yes, unfortunately, I did mean the movie…sad that. Sadder still that it’s one of few places where mainstream meets steampunk. So far, anyway! I’m hoping that the surge in YA lit will do something about that. And, I will definitely check out the graphic novel. Sounds excellent. Thanks for the recommend!

  2. Shanella Says:

    oh lovely! I’ve been looking at the photo of the reading device that they had on display, it was so pretty! I’m sure the images in this book were great!

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