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Is Steampunk Sci-fi or Fantasy?

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Steampunk is a theme that has been around since the 1960s. But the term wasn’t actually used until the 1980s. It usually shows technology that is mainly powered by steam and has a certain old Victorian aesthetic. But is it Sci-fi or fantasy?

Steampunk is considered a sub genre of Sci-fi. This is because Sci-fi focuses on the technological advancements rather than things that could never happen due to magic etc. Steampunk technology can be both seen as primitive and futuristic depending on the medium. That is not to say that Steampunk cannot have fantasy elements. But it is predominately a Sci-fi genre.

Books to Read

Here is a small selection of Steampunk themed books to read. They vary in reading age, from Young Adult to Mature audiences. These are great examples to see if you enjoy the theme.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

What is Leviathan Wakes?

Leviathan is set in an alternate timeline during World War I. Instead of Allies versus Axis, its Darwinists versus Clankers.

Darwinists use the knowledge of Charles Darwin plus an early discovery of DNA to create fantastical beasts to do their bidding.

Clankers on the other hand are the Steampunk faction. They use their skill and ingenuity to build machines to combat the Darwinists.

The main character, Alek, is the son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Princess Sophie. Of course just like in our timeline, they are both assassinated which triggers World War I. With Alek’s parents dead he is stolen away to Switzerland by his protectors.

At the same time Deryn Sharp wants to fly and disguises herself as a man (Think Mulan). She is assigned to the ship Leviathan. Upon the war breaking out, the ship is shot down in Switzerland where he meets Aleks.

Together they must survive and keep their secrets safe from their enemies. Hoping they can make it to the end of the war.

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Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

The original Steampunk novel. The book follows a marine biologist Professor Pierre Aronnax as he and his crew travel under the sea to find and kill a mysterious monster.

Over a 100 years old and still read today. Shows the great quality of Verne’s work and how his imagery inspired many children’s dreams.

With only 300+ pages it should be quite a quick read for fans of Sci-Fi.

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Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Imagine a world where cities physically moved. Now take that idea and imagine them eating each other. Big cities eat smaller cities.

Tom Natsworthy is the main character. He craves adventure. And when an assassin attempts the life of Tom’s hero, Tom gives chase. Once he catches up to the assassin he learns an unwelcome truth.

One which sees him being pushed down a chute to his death. He survives and his wild adventure continues.

Mortal Engines plays a large emphasis on appearances. The better looking you are the further up the food chain you go. It also shows that the lower classes are fell less shallow than those of the upper classes.

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The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

The Aeronaught's Windlass By Jim Butcher Steampunk

Jim Butcher, the creator of the Dresden files, wrote The Aeronaut’s Windlass. The book is about Spires that protect hummanity from outside threats. These Spires house the aristocrats who forge trade and technological marvels.

Even though hummanity is safe from other threats. They are not so safe from rival Spires trying to take power. The book starts with a Cold War between two spires.

The book is in the third person, and we go through various viewpoints. One of those characters, Grimm, discovers a secret that is to change the face of hummanity forever.

The book explores many characters and locations. It moves at a very quick pace. However the characters take a while to develop before they get interesting.

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Kingdoms at War by Lindsay Buroker

Kingdoms at War by Lindsay Buroker

Kingdoms at War by Lindsay Buroker is about Wizard Kings ruling from their sky cities. As with all powerful leaders, the average human is just a tool to be used.

Out of all the books here, I haven’t finished this title yet, but so far it has me intrigued. I will update this once I’ve finished reading it.

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