You can’t have steampunk without steam (and maybe some gears), but in the hands of a stellar cast of authors, everything else is open to interpretation.
Tales range across space and time, from ancient Rome (sort of; M.T. Anderson takes history, adds a few gears and delivers a mind-boggling result) to a Dickensian North America, courtesy of Cory Doctorow, where maimed orphans fight the literal and figurative man; from Wales (Delia Sherman’s comedic “The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor”) to the melancholy present and a heroine who might be an accidental transplant from an altogether more exciting reality (Dylan Horrock’s “Steam Girl”). The collection is carefully organized, frontloaded with bound-to-be- popular selections from Libba Bray (girl power in the Old West) and Cassie Clare (unrequited love, talking dolls and second chances) and then moving into less well-known contributors. A couple of graphic tales mix with literary hard hitters like Elizabeth Knox (a dark, dreamy and tragic look at the nuances of relationships) and co-editor Link (whose “Summer People” riffs on old tales of Faeries and humans). Steampunk is hot at the moment in literature, art and fashion: This collection taps into the ethos without ever seeming topical or transient, thanks to contributions rich with much more than just steam and brass fittings.An excellent collection, full of unexpected delights. (introduction, author biographies) (Anthology. 12 & up)