Saturday, May 21, 2011


Steamed by Katie Macalister

Jack Fletcher is a computer engineer and steampunk enthusiast. When his sister1 accidentally causes an explosion in Jack's lab, both are knocked unconscious. They wake in the hold of an airship in an alternative world that is the stuff of Jack's fantasies. He quickly becomes smitten with the ship's captain, the red-headed Octavia, who believes that the stowaways are spies.

Russell happened across Steamed while browsing the library catalog (or Amazon or something) and pointed it out to me. I figured it couldn't hurt to give it a try (I do like romance novels and we are getting more into steampunk). I read Steamed during the move-stress-induced blog-dry-spell. It was the kind of book that I was wanting to read during that time period (light) so it was convenient that my name finally made it to the top of the library waiting list for the ebook.

I was less disappointed in Steamed than I was irritated with it. When I read a romance novel, I'm not expecting it to be good literature. I want to be able to relate to either the heroine or hero, I want the two of them to have chemistry and for their relationship to develop in a somewhat-realistic way. I can usually put up with all kinds of odd settings and unrealistic situations, provided that they don't distract overmuch from the main thrust of the story, the romance.

This book fell flat for me precisely because the two main characters and their relationship were not compelling. Even if they were, I'm not sure they would have been able to combat the myriad distractions I encounter.

There were the secondary characters. Jack's sister is little more than a means for furthering the plot at certain points (and the fact that Jack and Octavia were able to carry on as they did after the sister was abducted highlighted the fact that she wasn't a substantive person). Mr. Francisco and his horrible flowery speech were completely unnecessary (its not like there wasn't at least one other potential rival for Jack). Mr. Llama's ability to mysteriously disappear was mentioned so many times even though it had no bearing on the story.

There was the fact that Jack was a Quaker. While it is nice to have your characters , it seemed like a strange choice to make him a pacifist and then send him into this dangerous environment. The oddest thing was that Jack being a Quaker came up over and over again to the point when it seemed like the author might have been using the book to "educate" her readers about the Society of Friends and their beliefs. It is also a bit hard to reconcile Jack's moralism (re. non-violence) with his extremely lustful nature.2

What struck me the most was the lack of steampunk in the "steampunk romance." Jack uses the term "steampunk" quite often, but Steamed really isn't a steampunk novel. It's like Macalister decided to add some elements she thought of as steampunk so that she could get in on the steampunk craze (if there really is a steampunk craze). Actually, though, it really seemed to me that Macalister was making fun of people who do steampunk cosplay rather than using Steamed as a way to draw in a new group of readers. Jack is obsessed with goggles and the fact that no one wears them (he also wants to know why Octavia doesn't wear her corset on the outside of her clothes; Octavia is confused by this query as she views corsets as underwear not outerwear). This wasn't mentioned the once, but rather revisited over and over again, which is what gave me the mocking vibe because corsets and goggles both feature prominently in many steampunk outfits. Notice, though, that both goggles and an external corset are featured in the novel's cover art.
  1. I can't remember her name and she's not important enough as a character to be named in the publisher's synopsis.
  2. I had to the strongest desire to type "horndog."


  1. I had to finally google 'steampunk' and educate myself.

    SO now I know why 'steam', but still unsure why 'punk' ?

  2. I don't know that I have an answer to the why-punk question because I really am not an expert. I believe the term was first coined as a joking spin-off of cyberpunk. The culture could be seen as kind of punk (rebellious, counter-cultural, anti-establishment) especially as many people involved may have migrated from the goth or cyberpunk scenes.

  3. I've not heard of this book before! I love the cover! Sorry to hear you were disappointed and irritated with the book. Thank you for sharing your honest review!