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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Steamed Book Review *Katie MacAlister*

There has been a great deal of buzz in regards to Katie MacAlister’s Steamed, a so-called steampunk romance being released today. The main question lies, is Steamed such a book that may jump start steampunk for the romance genre that so many have been waiting for?

If Steamed is any inclination, I would have to say no. This is set in an alternative universe with a post World War II feel rather then a Victorian steampunk type setting. There’s a grating amount of times the term “steampunk” is mentioned by the characters, as well as Katie making sure to tell and show in great detail these specific things that must make it so. Honestly, if you take out these very precise rules that make steampunk what it is, what you have is a historical alternate world where the hero and heroine team up to save their country from the enemy. But hey, we have flying ships that run on steam, so this must be a steampunk, right?

Steamed begins in present day 2010, where Dr. Jack Fletcher, a nanoelectrical systems engineer, who has reputation of being a wild ladies’ man. This is so far from the truth, mainly because the rumors about him being compared to an Indiana Jones like hero are false. Jack just happens to be at the right place at the wrong time, and through these bizarre circumstances, he has become larger than life. He’s more comfortable working in his research lab and listening to part steampunk, part goth and part industrial music. By the way, this combination of music sounds like it would be quite painful on the ear drums. And get this- Jack is a Friend, or better known as a Quaker. (I have visions of Indiana Jones meeting the movie Witness, which coincidentally stars both Harrison Ford).

Jack loves everything to do with Steampunk. And he’ll soon become lost in that world he loves so when his sister Hallie comes to visit him at his office and touches something she shouldn’t. She spills a canister full of liquid helium all over an electrical system that sends her and Jack through a portal into another dimension. They end on the airship Tesla under the command of Captain Octavia Pye. Octavia thinks Jack and Hallie are spies, which if they are, may ruin her maiden voyage. There are several female captains in the Southampton Areocorps, but this is the first time Octavia has ever commandeered an airship. There are very important reasons why Octavia must be successful and arrive safely in Rome. Not only does she have to worry about the revolutionary group known as the Black Hand, and their leader Etienne Briel, who she was intimate with, but also the Moghuls who are enemies of the His Imperial Majesty that Octavia serves.

You’d think Jack would freak out more, just like Hallie does, but he loves being in this world. He especially likes Captain Pye, with her luscious red hair and great eye catching chest, as well as her buttoned up dress uniform he would love nothing more to rip off. After Jack explains to Octavia and her crew where he and his sister have come from, they welcome them on board until they can find a way to return them to their own world. Jack is much like a kid in a candy store as he learns about the Tesla and all those wonderful steampunk type gadgets. He also gets to know Octavia very well, where he tries to make his romance reputation, a reality, but only with her. Everything is smooth sailing for Jack as he shows his redheaded captain different ways to loosen up, but then Hallie ends up missing. Octavia must help Jack find his sister before she’s hurt or worse, and stay under the radar of revolutionaries and the emperor himself who Octavia also has had an unfortunate past with.

Steamed was very disappointing. I really was expecting a romance set in a steampunk world. What I read instead was a slap stick, too silly to take serious, let’s fall through the rabbit whole because it will be too ha-ha for words. There was too much fluff, ridiculous amount of conversations and eye rolling action scenes that really didn’t keep my interest. Jack come across too immature for my tastes and his ease at being a strange man in a very strange world, where his main goal is to seduce the proper Octavia grated on my nerves. Octavia wears too many hats, as in, she has multiple disguises and really doesn’t know what she wants to in life. Not only is she an air ship captain, but a revolutionary in secret, who also has been in the beds of many high powered men. I couldn’t get a handle on her motivation for anything. She was also too unrealistic in the way she jumps into Jack’s arms, just because he is a good kisser and the main aggressor sexually. The final last straw that made me want to throw this book across the room is a major twist with Octavia and who she actually is and where she originally has come from.

The first person points of views jump back and forth between Jack and Octavia and the use of the letter “I” becomes very overwhelming and pushes you out of the story. In one paragraph alone, this figure of speech was used eight times. The silliness of the characters and the way they talk and act with one another was another annoyance, especially with Jack and Octavia, as their whole world is crumbling around them, they still have time to engage in a great deal of hanky panky.

I feel like I’ve been duped mainly because Steamed is not a straight up steampunk romance. Just because you throw in flying ships that run on water and steam or have a set of characters with Victorian values and beliefs, does not make it so. If you want to moan and sigh, but not in a good way by what you’re reading, Steamed may be for you. (Signet)

Final Grade: C+ *I almost came close to giving this a much lower grade, but I did enjoy the first 80 pages or so*

Other Steamed reviews across the internet:

Katiebabs

26 comments:

Kathryn Smith said...

I'm so disappointed. I picked this book up at Borders because I've been waiting for it. I'll still read it, but I was hoping for a Victorian setting as well.

KMont said...

Hmmmmmm.


Hmmmmmm!


I'm reading it still. Your bad reads seem to be my good reads lately. Not that I wanted you to dislike this one, but hopefully that trend continues lol!

Honestly, I gave up MacAlister's work a while back because it had started to feel like the too silly brand of humor. I was hoping this book woul kind of bring me back to the humor I liked from her. Then again, it might all read silly to me now.

Gigi's Consignment Closet said...

Great review. The excerpt looked interesting but I think I'll hold off on the "steampunk" romances for awhile.

SonomaLass said...

I've never read any of her work, but as a big fan of steampunk, I was ready to be all over this. Then there was the whole trailer-trashing debacle (sigh), and now there are reviews that tell me I probably won't love it. I probably will still read it, so that at least I can discuss it when people bring it up.

Brie said...

I agree with your thoughts. After reading Clockwork Heart, I had been anxiously awaiting more steampunk romance, so this was an auto buy. Unfortunately, It ended up being an DNF for me. Too many inconsistencies, too slapstick, not steampunk enough for me. The alternating first person didn't help either.

Kris said...

Well darn. I'll be still interested in reading it, but appreciate your heads-up about issues associated with the steampunk labelling.

vivi said...

Hi KB. I found you on textnovel forum about supporting each other. I think your blog is fun and entertaining. I'll add it to my blog roll.

KMont said...

And now the book cover is under speculation of being a copywrite infringe-er.

http://community.livejournal.com/steamfashion/2357414.html

Yesterday the book trailer was discussed for having a photo used without permission in it.

http://community.livejournal.com/steamfashion/2352175.html

The cover is a more difficult one to rule on. I love the cover. I can see how it was referenced via the photo shown, but am leaning towards camp of enough details were changed in the illustration. I am under impression that cover artist MIGHT not have ben familiar with steampunk fashion and used the photo as reference. They perhaps could have used a different pose and a different prop in her hand, but...it's on shelves now.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Kmont: I saw this on Twitter. Actually, I'm not a big fan of the cartoonish type cover. Better to have an air ship instead with some corset boobed girl hanging out.

Smokinhotbooks said...

I don't know what to say, I'm still thinking about steampunk and how I really don't know much about it, despite google-ing multiple times.

Zeek said...

chalk another up to being disappointed on hearing this. I have such fond memories of the Time Machine and other H G Wells and I got so excited that steampunk was making inroads into romance- hearing that she tried to go funny- which btw, doesn't surprise me, I tried one other of her books and was less than impressed- really REALLY disappoints me. Humor is very hard to pull off for me in novels. Too many times it comes off as trying to hard.

I picked it up last week and its in my TBR pile, so I will read it, but I'm wincing just thinking of it...

Michelle said...

Whew. I'm glad I didn't win it on Goodreads or LibraryThing!

That's so disappointing that it didn't even feel Victorian, and that the author tried a little too hard to force the steampunk genre into the writing. Boo.

Thanks for the honest review. You saved me!

Cym Lowell said...

You wrote an excellent review! I like reading your thoughts...thanks for linking this up! I also tweeted this review...others should read!!

-CYM

heidenkind said...

I saw this book on my mom's desk, so she must have rushed out and bought it. I know she was excited about it, too. It sounded kinda hinky to me.

To be honest, I don't really see MacAlister as a steampunk author. She's really good at romcom-type books, while Steampunk is usually darker and more atmospheric.

orannia said...

Honestly, I gave up MacAlister's work a while back because it had started to feel like the too silly brand of humor.

And that's exactly why I stopped reading. I enjoyed the first couple of Ashling Grey books but, then the humour took a turn towards a place I didn't want to go, so I stopped. Thank you for the review KB. This book doesn't sound right for me.

MC said...

"...spills a canister full of liquid helium all over an electrical system..."

Helium has a low atomic mass and so liquid helium can only exist at temperatures below -268.95°C.

And the liquid helium canister (at near absolute zero!) was just sitting around, waiting to be knocked over??? And no one got hurt??

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

MC: Yes. And I quote: "Just as my hand closed around hers, she flipped up the valve, sending liquid helium boiling out to the circuit below. Hallie snatched at the precious circuit, obviously to save it from being harmed, but it was too late."

MC said...

"...sending liquid helium boiling out..."

KB, I'd have to give the book an F just for that...boiling point for helium is much lower than absolute zero (O Kelvin), ranging between 3.2 K and 4.2 K. It would cause far more harm than damage to a circuit!!!

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

In MacAlister's world, a light fills the room and sends the sibling duo into another dimension. LOL.

MC said...

Sorry, should read "higher than absolute zero", so the helium would not be liquid (I know, difficult to ascertain the differences in lquid and boiling point for helium).

More so, absolute zero cannot be achieved artificially, although cryocoolers can reach temperatures close to it. Did our hero have one of those in his lab?

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

No mention of a cryocooler. But Hallie thinks it's thermos of coffee. She picks it up from Jack's desk in the lab.

MC said...

"In MacAlister's world, a light fills the room and sends the sibling duo into another dimension. LOL."

KB, I am glad you get the implausibility of this happening, even in a alternate universe...I can't let natural laws go by the wayside when reading a story without a very good explanation.

She could have used a different gas, maybe liquid oxygen?
LOX at 20°C can cause materials to become extremely brittle from a very powerful oxidising agent. That would have disrupted the circuit.

MC said...

Okay, I can't seem to stop and the constructs seem to get more bizarre.

"flying ships that run on water and steam"

Dirigibles are lighter-than-air transport that have failed throughout history with attempted propulsion using steam.

The difficulty was in producing a steam source with a high enough 'power to weight ratio' for success.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

MC: Again, the case of taking everything at face value and don't ask questions why because it will ruin the story for you.

If only you knew the true mystery about Octavia's past. IMO, that was inexcusable.

MC said...

KB, thanks but I am not particularly inclined to accept implausible situations and if the 'true mystery about Octavia's past was inexcusable' in your opinion...this book is a definite pass for me.

At least the first 80 pages garnered an advanced grade from you!

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

I was really hoping this would be a straight Steampunk romance and not an inter-dimensional traveling one.