Saturday, 16 November 2013

Nowhere Fast: A Bleak Steampunk Story About a Future That’s Bound to Happen

A Review By: Amelia
Steampunk is a personal passion of mine. I love the mythology that authors have created over the years all wrapped around the thought of Victorian age machinery that never was. Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories is a book that I was instantly drawn too for this reason.

Steampunk! is an anthology of fourteen short stories that all have something to do with a steampunk world. Nowhere Fast, by Christopher Rowe, was one of those stories and, although not my favourite story in the book, it’s one that really resonated with me as it’s a story of what might the world become when oil runs out.

The author of Nowhere Fast is Christopher Rowe, a writer whose short stories have been nominated for awards such as World Fantasy, Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Sturgeon–all of which are awards for fantasy pieces, so when this guy sits down to write a steampunk story, he knows what he’s doing!

There are a host of characters introduced in the span of this short story but the main characters (which represent the main themes of the piece) are Luza, a teenage girl that wishes to explore the world, Fizz, a teenage boy that wishes to change the world, and Luza’s father and the Federals (the story’s equivalent to the military), that are scared and opposed to the world changing. The story doesn’t present a lot of character development within its thirty or so pages, but I don’t think it was supposed too. The characters–as I stated above–represent an idea more than they do characters that we’re supposed to think are living, breathing beings.

The location of the story is Kentucky in the not so distant future (it’s never said exactly what year it is, but it’s sometime past the year 2050). The world has run out of oil so things like plastics and cars have ceased to exist for years and years. Going any distance is an arduous task, so no one goes anywhere anymore except the Federals which have steam powered machinery. The United States has no federal government and any cities or towns of reasonable size have become their own sovereign states. It’s an interesting concept because although the world isn’t in a completely feudal state, it’s still a world divided.

In an anthology of steampunk stories, Nowhere Fast doesn’t quite fit. It has steampunk elements: coal powered horses, Da Vinci inspired flying machines, and a world built on recycling and reusing. At the same time though, it’s more a story of a bleak future. Whereas steampunk–true steampunk–is about a past in which steam powered machinery is an advancement, Nowhere Fast is a story where steam powered machinery is the only option: it’s not an advancement, it’s in fact a hindrance. It’s a nice twist on the usual steampunk trope.

My final thoughts on the short story Nowhere Fast are that it is bleak. Maybe it’s not supposed to be as bleak as my mind as made it out to be, but–even if it isn’t–it’s still bleak. It’s a story that’s telling us we need to find other ways to live our lives because oil isn’t going to cut it for much longer. It’s not the best, or the most steampunk story in the anthology, but it’s compelling and completely worth it all the same.

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