Book Review: X-Troop by Clay Davis

X-Troop by Clay Davis is a mostly western tale following an elite force assembled to fight the various threats faced by America in the late eighteen hundreds. It’s a short read, about 155 pages, (I think a little over 30,000 words) making it more of a novella.

Xtroop cover

You can find it on Amazon here.

X-Troop resembles a relatively well-polished but underdeveloped attempt at Ocean’s Eleven meets Magnificent Seven. Most of the novel amounts to little more than what you would find in the outline of a “How-To” guide for writing genre fiction, stacking clichés on top of stereotypes and predictable plot points.

The thrust of the story is that Col. Orsen Ritter has been recruited by President Grant and General Sheridan to form a team of special secret troopers to go after America’s threats. The threats are vague and non-specific and so is the reason why this or any team is appropriate to solve them. Custer’s massacre is regularly mentioned as a catalyst for forming the team, but the team does nothing to follow up on that historical event and instead spends their time arbitrarily addressing an outlaw gang whose only real threat is some gold shipment robberies that will somehow cripple the US economy.

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Book Review: An Unsubstantiated Chamber

An Unsubstantiated Chamber by William J Jackson is a dark steampunk murder mystery set in Railroad City, with a few bleak undertones of the superhero genre to set it apart from the fray. The first in a series, it’s a pretty solid debut from another self-published author and also includes a pair of short stories at the end for bonus material.

Chamber cover

Find it on Amazon here.

Jackson succeeds early on in setting a very dark and dystopian tone for his fictitious Rail city in 1880’s Missouri and I couldn’t help picturing a foggy nineteenth century London (I suppose in steampunk that’s a compliment). His tale is bleak and somber and told with deep regret by our narrator, Miss Aretha Tyne Astin, a hunter of paranormals or “Pins” who is herself a paranormal in league with a Gestapo-like military regime. Using a memoir format (at times, almost confessional) Astin guides us through the series of events that not only surround the Chamber Murders case, but her own personal shift in allegiance.

This retrospective narration adequately sets up the plot but I couldn’t help finding the younger version of Astin far more compelling than the older, wiser narrator. Young Astin boasts in her Welsh/Mexican breeding, conceitedly itemizes the intricacies of her outfits, and waxes philosophical about “the hunt” which has become like an addiction to her, obscuring her awareness of the atrocities in which she participates. Old Astin is exposition heavy and a bit of a downer. Jackson missed a golden opportunity not letting the younger Astin’s voice dominate more of the narration, especially the opening of the story. With her proud, vane and politically myopic point of pulled to the foreground, the opening would’ve been far more gripping, while the droll, self-reflective and morally realigned character she becomes could have faded in a little later in the narrative, once we’re safely hooked on the story. I get what he was going for in the Prologue, but it killed a lot of momentum before Astin’s snark could lure me back in and save the story.

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Book Review: Beyond the Rails

Beyond the Rails, written by Jack Tyler is the unique kind of steampunk you secretly hope for when you open the cover. A series of stories following the crew of the airship Kestrel and their travels through the adventurous African interior.

BeyondRails cover

You can find it here on Amazon

Or check out his website where he offers the first story, free.

By choosing Africa, Tyler single handedly adds mystery, romance and excitement to a genre so often stuck in the same familiar foggy London alleys or dusty American frontier. Part of this owes itself to Tyler’s seeming familiarity with the dark continent. He quotes Swahili comfortably (though never distractingly) and rattles off geographical references like a pro. I don’t know his life history but if he hasn’t drawn knowledgeably from personal experience, then he’s succeeded in translating his immense research to the page expertly.

The writing style is rather pedestrian, and for a debut author, I’d go so far as to call it safe. For the most part though, I’d call that a good thing, as it never gets in the way of the story. What he lacks in flourish he makes up for with content, leaning back on his airships and foreign lands to keep things exciting. It works. A few typos here and there in my version expose the lack of thorough professional editing, but this was a minor concern (inevitable in most self-publishing). Truthfully, he’s put together a very nice package.

Tyler divides the book appropriately into episodes, each reading like a short story contributing to a larger saga. In truth, it felt like TV episodes, week to week as we get to know the cast and piece them into a cohesive season. The last three even connect directly by way of, “to be continued,” which works surprisingly well at building suspense even though the story simply continues on the next page like any other chapter.

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Book Review: A Measure of Temperance

A Measure of Temperance, written by Ichabod Temperance, about a nineteenth-century steampunk version of himself also named Ichabod Temperance, is as ridiculous to read as this sentence kicking off the review would suggest. This is the sixth volume in the series and you can find them all digitally on Amazon for a dollar (or paperback for a few bucks more).

Temperance cover

Check it out on Amazon

I really struggled with how to review this book. On the surface, it seems like a fun little steampunk romp full of jovial humor and quick wit. The author likes to stay completely in character for all his interviews as if he is speaking to the future.  And after six self-published novels, he has clearly honed in on exactly what he wants. The only problem is, it’s too inaccessible to the reader and almost impossible to follow along.

The plot is rather perfunctory. Ichabod Temperance (the character) is once again joined by his lady Persephone Plumtartt and a handful of carryovers such as the lusty Rev. Dolomite. They bumble about such fictional locales as Los Angelos [sic] and the island of San Monique, battling various monsters and zombies and magic. Sku Le’Bizarre represents this novel’s “VooDoo” equivalent of a Saturday morning villain and his scheme has something to do with making a sacrifice to a volcano named Queen Tempestia and provoking the “Great Awakening,” while often laughing sinisterly, “Mm-Baaaa-HAH-hahaha.”

Unfortunately I did not find the rollicking banter nearly so endearing or amusing. I love good repartee between characters, but I could seldom keep up with who was talking to whom. There are literally no dialogue tags. Ever. Indeed, in many scenes, you would not know where the scene takes place, who is present and how they were dressed except for the other characters’ pronouncements. Even scenes involving action exist solely through the descriptive prattling of the participating characters.

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Designs X Debbie

We were kindly contacted by Debbie, who asked if we would be interested in reviewing a couple of her pieces of jewelry. After seeing some of her pieces, obviously we said yes!

You can see the full collection of her handmade pieces here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DesignsXDebbie

Right, so lets get down to business. First of all, I wanted to compliment Debbie on the lovely packaging. It came well packed, and inside I was delighted to find this:

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Its not every day you get something quite so well packaged, which then gets you ready for whats inside!

We were kindly sent 2 necklaces to review. The first of which, is entitled “He Lost His Marbles“.

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This is a lovely piece, made from large brown glass beads that resemble marbles, small glass bead accents, Vintage style key accents and to top it all off – a lovely rustic wooden portrait of a man wearing a stove pipe hat, and smoking a cigar. This really would work well with most costumes.

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1950’s Italian Olivetti Typewriter with Hindi script

A 1950’s Italian Olivetti Typewriter specially made for India with Hindi script.

The inspiration is from Indian Royal era. If an Indian Maharaja had a typewriter… 🙂 The Imperial Illuminator is a dictation taking machine. It types out when something is spoken to it..

Again, made from recycled parts including Edison blubs, elegant watch pieces, pipping,

You can really appreciate the workmanship that has gone into this piece, by looking at what a standard version looked like!

1950's Italian Olivetti Typewriter Original

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Steampunk Gameboy

I’m always in awe, when people turn such a mundane thing as a Gameboy, into such a thing of beauty! While still retaining the ability to be played, it has now been retrofitted to make it look AWESOME! Here is how the original looks:

Nintendo Gameboy Colors

..and after:

MAchineX

I remember when a child, how much I wanted one of these things… but had I seen Abhisek’s one, I think I would have been the envy of the street … no wait … village, if I had owned it!

There isn’t a huge amount more to say on this item – apart from the fact, you can’t buy it! If you would really like one, I’m afraid you will have to commission one yourself! You can find out more from his site. So, all that remains is to show you some more lovely pictures of the Gameboy, for you to look at in awe 🙂

1926 Imperial “The good companion” typewriter lamp

Today we are going to review a “Typewriter Light” that was created by Absynthe Designs.It was created using  a 1926 Imperial “The good companion” typewriter:Imperial Good Companion

As you can see, its quite a nice looking typewriter – before any work has even begun!

The next stage is to add all the decorations. This was done using recycled parts from a fridge, gas valves, antique pocket watch parts, and then the crowning piece – a miniature gramophone!

The lovely wooden platform it sits on, is made from recycled old furniture.

The lights are Edison bulbs. Teflon coated concealed wiring, Cloth covered  external wire.

Although this piece is not for sale – we thought you would appreciate it. If you like this kind of piece, or would like to commission something yourself – please check out his site: http://absynthedesign.com/

 

Chad Schimmel Steampunk Pens

Chad Schimmel  has been creating pens (and other items) out of reclaimed materials, for many years now. While they may not be to everyone’s taste – there is no denying their brilliance and beauty (as well as being functional!). Today we are going to pick out out our personal favorite pens created by Chad. Why not also check out his complete collection?

WWW: http://www.impeccablepen.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Schimmel-Shop/149150738479027

 

Copper Aluminum and Black Titanium Rollerball pen.

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This is a handmade pen from Schimmel Fine Pens.

This pen has an aluminum and copper body with Black Titanium. One of a kind look to it. This pen takes a standard rollerball refill.

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James Ng

James Ng (pronounced Ing) was born in Hong Kong, where he spent most of his childhood drawing monsters and robots, making his own elaborate cardboard toys, and playing soccer. Ever since, he has been on the move between Hong Kong, Vancouver, Chicago and New York. His travels have greatly influenced him, allowing him to combine Eastern and Western cultures in his artwork.

Currently, James is enjoying the freedom of being a freelance concept artist and illustrator. After a sunny summer in Vancouver, and travelling to London, and then to New York for an award show and exhibition, he is back in his home of Hong Kong to continue his career. 

We asked James a few questions – you can see his answers below:

WWW: http://www.JamesNgArt.com
Facebook: facebook.com/JamesNgArt
Twitter: twitter.com/JamesNgArt
Instagram: instagram.com/JamesNgArt

When did you first get into Steampunk?

I started the series Imperial Steam and Light in 2008. I actually did not know the term “steampunk” until posting my series online. The series is based on an alternative history thesis I wrote; the idea was what technology would look like if modernization was not affected by western culture, but lead by the local design and engineers with different cultural backgrounds. The artwork were a way to answer my thesis. When I posted the work online, people kept calling it Chinese steampunk, and I googled the term and fell in love with what I saw.

What was the first commercial piece you made? (as a print)

The first print was the Imperial Airship, done the week before my graduation from New York School of Visual Arts. It was amazing to me that someone wanted a copy, I only did the piece for my own amusement and practice, but the airship has now become a staple of my series.

Who inspired / inspires you?

Besides my immense interest in history, one artist really inspired me. It might sound really cliché, but Da Vinci is someone I really admire, not only for his masterful technique in art, but for his thirst for knowledge and quest for self improvement. He is well versed in so many fields, and a pioneer in not only the arts. He was a skilled mathematician, engineer, scientist and physicist. Some of his private studies of the human body were later found to be 200years before it’s time! Part of the reason I got so into history was because I was inspired by Da Vinci’s motivation to learn and it turned out to be a defining moment in my art career.

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