I meant to do a review of Shimmer 11: The Clockwork Jungle Book a few weeks back, but I misplaced my copy during all of the hullabaloo of moving and remodeling. Now that everything is unpacked things should be getting back to normal.
The Clockwork Jungle Book as the name implies is based on the theme of Steampunk animals. This simple theme was carried above and beyond my expectations. Most of the authors were new to me, but some well known names do appear in the volume such as Jay Lake, Chris Roberson, along with the first fiction I've read from Lou Anders the impresario of Pyr. Overall, The Clockwork Jungle Book is a sumptuous feast of all things Steampunk with many stories that I hope are only beginning glimpses inside these wonderful and sometimes weird alternative worlds. Now on to some of the highlights.
Shedding Skin; Or How the World Came to Be by Jay Lake - To start we have Jay Lake's take on a mechanical animal filled Eden. This story sets the tone for the volume well, but they only get better from here, which says quite a bit as Lake is one of the better short stories writers out there.
The Jackdaw’s Wife by Blake Hutchins - This was one of my favorite tales. Hutchins's managed to do a lot with a little, creating an incredible monster from scratch within a few pages. Some of the development happens a bit too quickly though.
The Student and the Rats by Jess Nevins - A nice tale about a man tinkering with creatures to see how they work and make them better. It is almost a Steampunk retelling of the myth of Prometheus only with rats.
Otto’s Elephant, by Vince Pendergast - Stories within a story about what mechanical elephants of the past could do if they existed throughout history. Beautiful telling as if a bard were right there next to you. It felt like this was only the beginning to a much larger book of tales that I hope Pendergast revisits.
The Monkey and the Butterfly by Susannah Mandel - Hands down the cutest story in the bunch. A monkey who falls in love with a cat in a Victorian setting where most animals are highly intelligent, but still give into their animal instincts at times. Great character building in such a scant space.
The Mechanical Aviary of Emperor Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar by Shweta Narayan - Possibly the biggest standout in the collection. This tale could have easily fit in Arabian Nights as it evokes a desert setting as well as a moral beautifully done. It is also another story within a story.
Message in a Bottle by James Maxey - This is a story Jules Verne could almost have written. Maxey’s great adventure tale on the moon goes in unexpected directions.
The Clockwork Cat’s Escape by Gwynne Garfinkle - The shortest tale in the bunch, but most definitely one of the most heartfelt about knowing when to let go of something you love.
The Wolf and the Schoolmaster by James L. Cambias - Cambias needs a contract right now to write a book based off this story as this is clearly only the impetuous to a much longer story with a rich world history at his finger tips. This story is also startling similar in terms of tone and setting to what Scott Westerfeld did with Leviathan, so if you're a fan of that book you'll absolutely love Cambias. That said Cambias does put his own unique spin on this tale in some very good ways.
And How His Audit Stands by Lou Anders - Anders surprised me with one of the most well thoughtout and adventurous stories in the bunch yet the animal theme is a bit lost. He somehow gives a new life to trains with great Western style flair. I recently learned that Mike Resnick upcoming Steampunk themed series Weird West was initially Lou's idea. I now understand where Lou gestated the thought.
The Story In Which Dog Dies by Sara Genge - The anthology starts at the beginning of creation so it was only fitting to include a story about the end of the world with this tale of how the last dog on earth keeps moving.
The Fishbowl by Amal El-Mohtar - A perfect use of the theme in which the world's oceans are now populated by clockwork fish because of the proliferation of steam tech.
His Majesty’s Menagerie by Chris Roberson - A clockwork animal arms race followed by a clockwork animal war. Wonderfully done.
The Emperor’s Gift by Rajan Khanna - With an Asian flare the workings of a clockwork builder come to life.
There was not a clunker in this bunch. I give The Clockwork Jungle Book 9 out of 10 Hats. This is a volume that had it been a little longer could have easily found a home with a large publisher for the mass market. If you are a Steampunk fan go out and order this book or if you've always wondered what keeps me reading this genre it would be a great volume to induct yourselves into the fold. You'll thank me later. Now Shimmer has got me wondering whether every issue is as high quality as this so much that I'll have to check out another.
You Might Also Like:
So Much Steampunk, So Little Time
REVIEW | Heart of Veridon by Tim Akers
REVIEW | The Affinity Bridge by George Mann