Contented Reader

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Ghosts by Gaslight

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Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense

edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers

Harper Voyager


The basic idea of this collection is steampunk ghost stories.  I’m not sure what the difference is between ‘steampunk’ and stories that are simply inspired by, and imitations of, the style of a nineteenth-century story.  Maybe the distinction is in the machinery and mechanisms, and there are several here, machines to capture ghosts and touch worlds Man Was Not Meant to Know Of.

There are authors I’ve heard of here: Gene Wolfe, Robert Silverberg, the inimitable Peter S. Beagle (note to self: when it’s convenient, become obsessed with Peter S. Beagle).  Several of them seem to be channeling the spirits of their Victorian inspirations, and many of them acknowledge those debts freely in the little post-story afterwords that I enjoyed so much.

A few of these stories didn’t do much for me, but I’ve rarely found an anthology that I liked all of, so that’s okay.  There were several stories that I actually kind of loved.

I think my favorite was the Theodora Goss story, “Christopher Raven,” which showed four women returning to the girls’ school where they had been roommates.  Where they had lived together in the long-disused room that once belonged to the school’s founder.  Where they had shared dreams of a mysterious, handsome poet, dreams that started romantically but turned dark and frightening.

I also liked Garth Nix’s “The Curious Case of the Moondawn Daffodils Murder,” which included elements of Sherlock Holmes and a pinch of H. P. Lovecraft, its horror much tempered by humor.  Sherlock Holmes’s second cousin Magnus, who may or may not be insane, investigates a murder involving magic and daffodils.

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning in October, and I read this book starting when the sky was still dark, as the sun rose, and then finished it lying comfortably in the warm sunny spot, with the cat kneading my back companionably.


Written by Contented Reader

October 15, 2011 at 9:45 am

Posted in Reviews


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