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Ghosts By Gaslight: A Ghoulish Steampunk Shaddowwes Box
Steampunk is, by its very nature, primarily a science fiction genre. From the possible to the woefully improbable, science is the religion of the white-coated clerics that populate the shrines of laboratories. However, given the dual nature of the Victorian period where mysticism and science were often considered two halves of the same coin, the Steampunk genre also has one leg in the bone yard with the ghosts of Frankenstein's monster and Edward Hyde haunting the collective consciousness. And for those that like their science with a side of the supernatural, “Ghosts by Gaslight” is the collection for you.
“Ghosts by Gaslight,” is a collection of 17 short stories by some extremely talented authors who managed to hit the tone and pitch of the period squarely. And while there are homages contained in this collection of tales (the first story “The Iron Shroud” bears the distinct impression of a love affair with Mary Shelley's classic novel), all of the stories are unique and strange enough that they'll keep you reading long after you should have turned out the light and tried to sleep.
Also, while the idea of a Gothic ghost story conjures up images of foreboding estates and the images of the restless dead, this collection has both the traditional and the inventive when it comes to the interpretation of the word “ghost.” While there are the chain-rattling revenants you might expect there are also things that follow the spirit rather than the form of the ghost. The idea of memories that haunt the holder, travelers between worlds and even the tales of pockets where people live separate from this world, in places of paradise where no time seems to pass and life stretches immortal.
In addition to the different tastes of ghost, this collection also offers a wide variety of story tones throughout. Stories like “The Curious Case of the Moondawn Daffodils Murder” are something of a quirky mystery with the sorcerous laying cheek by jowl with the scientific. Of course other stories, like the horrifying “Blackwood's Baby,” which appears to have come from Lovecraft Country, touch on the as yet unconquered parts of the world, from Africa to the deep darks of the world's forests, where wicked and bizarre things may yet live and await men foolish enough to seek them.
So in the end, “Ghosts by Gaslight” has a little something for everyone. Lost cities, ancient mysteries, bizarre machines, arcane sciences and all of it set in a world of the fantastic where anything is possible, most things are probable, and genius and madness share a bed more often than not.
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