Thursday, June 28, 2012

55 Books in a Year: Book #31 Soulless

I absolutely love this book and when I love a book I have a hard time focusing on what I want to say about it. This book is especially hard to talk about because it has so much going on...first it is set in London and is Steampunk, it has werewolves and vampires and supernaturals and preternaturals. It has witting dialogue and romance woven in to a story of mystery and science. It may seem like a simple Steampunk novel, but, the author Gail Carriger touches upon the big themes of acceptance, playing God and gender roles in society. Seriously, it's a whopper, a fun and sexy (seriously werewolves, I want one) whopper, but a whopper nonetheless. 

To keep myself focused on reviewing the novel, I've found a lovely article that delves into the Steampunk genre without talking above my head and gives three tropes that most Steampunk stories and novels seem to possess. I will use these three to discuss Soulless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel by Gail Carriger.

Either Cockney or the Queen's English (in terms of the Victorian Era)
Through language Carriger distinguishes the many social levels evident in her book. Lord Maccon, of course, being the upper crust, has such a gentleman's voice that all the other male characters pale in comparision. He seems smooth and controlled, Lord Akeldama would be the opposite of that and then the various underlings take on various accents and characteristics appropriate to their level in society. We even understand the Alexia Tarabotti is a bit of a posh, who may be separated from others in her society by her Italian blood, but who language is elevated compared to her best friend and opposite Ivy Hisselpenny.

"Machinery that either experiments with the use of steam, or involves industry on some scale"
This is an easy and fun aspect to think about concerning this novel. There are glassicals (Ben Franklin type trifocals with various levels of examination), mechanical carriages, funky hats and parasols. While I don't think these machines are as fleshed-out and realized as those in other Steampunk novels I've read, I do believe they help set the scene for this Victorian London.

Questions authority and "offers interrogations of famous figures, historical events"...this looks different in the States (think the Wild West) versus England (think Queen Victoria as a robot)
Soulless is a novel full of social commentary. I love that there are so many times that Alexia is prohibited by her gender and literally her skirts from being the true bad-a she'd like to be. She also recognizes that if she were married she'd be able to do more and she understands the class system. Sometimes all of this knowledge is detrimental as it prohibits her from having thoughts of freedom and, sometimes it limits her ability to see herself as a woman who possesses all the traits women want to possess. Even she is trapped in seeing herself as an object.

"A novel of vampires, werewolves, and parasols"...what more could you really ask for, I mean really?

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