Dec 19

Starred Library Journal review for new Elizabeth Bear novel

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Verdict: Bear (Steles of the Sky; Blood and Iron) pumps fresh energy into the steampunk genre with a light touch on the gadgetry and a vivid sense of place. Karen has a voice that is folksy but true, and the entire cast of heroic women doing the best they can in an age that was not kind to their gender is a delight. Ably assisted by a U.S. Marshal and his Comanche posseman, Karen and the ladies kick ass.

The Gold Rush town of Rapid City is just about what you would expect in a frontier community catering to the mining trade: rough, violent, and full of prostitutes. Karen is a “soiled dove” working at Madame Damnable’s establishment, where she and her sisters in trade serve a more respectable crowd than the poor girls who work the cribs at the waterfront. When one of those young women escapes and runs to Madame’s for help, she brings the wrath of the crib owner, Peter Bantle, on the house. Bantle, in addition to bring a vicious bully seems to have a device that can control people’s minds. — Library Journal, Starred Review

Dec 15

Booklist on Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

If contemporary Seattle is an apt setting for cyberpunk thrillers, it stands to reason that nineteenth-century Seattle should serve just as well for a steampunk adventure. Bear’s new novel follows the title character’s life as a bordello girl working along Puget Sound, from which steam-powered airships take gold prospectors up and down the western mountain ranges. But in the seedy dockside world of the Pacific Northwest frontier, the opportunities for criminals with powerful technology in their hands are ripe. Fans of the steampunk aesthetic will appreciate Bear’s affectionate treatment of the style. Weapons, gadgets, and their places in the characters’ lives put together a charmingly inventive fictional Seattle, ­especially for those readers bringing along some knowledge of the city’s nascent history. Karen’s first-person narration can feel a bit inconsistent with her swapping between eloquence and intentionally ungrammatical slang, but she always manages to hit the spot when her descriptions need to set the mood. — Booklist

Nov 25
2014’s Favorite Books of 2014

Congratulations to Elizabeth Bear, whose STELES OF THE SKY was included as one of’s Favorite Books of 2014!

Nov 20

Kirkus on Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Steampunk: Something of a new venture for Bear, whose previous output (Steles of the Sky, 2014, etc.) has ranged from heroic fantasy to science fiction, often with an embedded murder mystery. By the late 19th century, airships ply the trade and passenger routes, optimistic miners head in droves for the Alaskan gold fields, and steam-powered robots invented by licensed Mad Scientists do much of the heavy (and sometimes delicate) work. In Rapid City on the U.S. northwest coast, Madame Damnable operates the Hôtel Mon Cherie, a high-class bordello, paying a hefty “sewing machine tax” for the privilege. Here, orphaned horse-breaker and narrator Karen Memery (Bear doesn’t tell us why the book’s title is spelled differently) works among similarly lively, engaging and resourceful girls. One night, Priya, a malnourished but tough young woman, arrives at the door carrying the badly wounded Merry Lee, who escaped from one of the grim brothels operated by brutal gangster Peter Bantle (and has since made a career of rescuing other indentured girls from Bantle’s clutches). Madame Damnable’s steam-powered mechanical surgeon saves Merry’s life­but not before Bantle himself shows up, wearing, Karen notes, a peculiar glove that somehow can compel others to obey his commands. Worse, the following night the girls discover the body of a murdered prostitute nearby. U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves arrives with his Comanche sidekick, Tomoatooah; they’re tracking a serial killer who seems to have made his way to Rapid City. The story swiftly knots itself into steampunk-ishly surreal complications, with dauntless (and, by this point, love-stricken) Karen in the thick of the action. Supplies all the Bear necessities: strong female characters, existential threats, intriguing developments and a touch of the light fantastic. — Kirkus

Nov 17

Kirkus’ Best Fiction Books of 2014

Congratulations to Elizabeth Bear (STELES OF THE SKY) and Mary Robinette Kowal (VALOUR AND VANITY) whose books made it onto Kirkus’ Best Fiction Books of 2014 list!

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