One morning, while in the throes of a mild reading-slump, I stumbled across a recommendation for the short story Passage Out, which was described as a mix of Steam Punk and Space Opera. To my continued disappointment, I’ve yet to actually read any proper Steam Punk books, but it’s something I’m curious about, and I love the aesthetic of it. I can’t say I’ve read a lot of Space Opera either, but I’m familiar with the genre, even beyond Star Wars.
Anyway, it sounded appealing enough, so I picked it up (it’s free, here), and read it. It took perhaps twenty minutes, and I learned that the short story was a teaser for the novel Star Compass, which I finished the same afternoon.
Star Compass is a light-hearted, uncomplicated story about an orphan pickpocket who’s also a mathematical genius, and who gets a job observing spaceship trajectories at the Spaceport in Victorian-era Southampton.
There’s a bit of romance, a bit of action, some complications, and an anarchist conspiracy. It’s also an easy read that focuses on the main character and her story, without getting bogged down in the technical minutiae of steam punk space travel.
In other words, it’s just what the doctor ordered against that mild reading slump I’d been dragging around, and it worked a treat.
What stood out to me at the start of the book was how the main character’s life as an orphan appeared a bit too easy – more like an idealized romanticized version of what it probably was like.
As I thought about it, I remembered that the last four books I’d read about similar characters were all in the grimdark genre, and I stopped letting it bother me. This is decidedly not grimdark (almost the opposite), and I’m fine with that.
A different concern is that this story appears to be a standalone. It looks like there are several other books in the same setting, but I would like another book with Diana.
What I’ll gush about
Steam punk space opera. I’m not sure I need to say more.
Regardless, I will…
Diana is a really cool character. At first, I expected someone like Agatha from the Girl Genius comic, but the way she’s written, and especially her relation to mathematics, put me more in mind of Binti, from the books with the same name.
It’s also fun to take part of Diana’s musings on the way she’s treated based on how she appears during different parts of the story.
Book, words, action! This isn’t a complicated story. It takes its ideas and runs with them, puts on a good show, and then gets on with the next thing. Maybe it’s fine that there’s no sequel – perhaps it wouldn’t be the same.
Once again: Steam Punk Space Opera