Edward Ellis: The Huge Hunter, or The Steam Man of the Prairies

Well that's about it. I'm done with Edisonades, and I think dimestore fiction in general.  This book is available for free on Project Gutenberg, or as a podcast.

Here's the steampunk factor:

Technofantasy: 18 points There is very little technofantasy about this concept. It's really extrapolating existing technology into a novel design. It's barely fantastic in the science fiction sense.

(Neo)Victorianism: 30 points Period piece not at all out of sorts.

Retro-futurism: 15 points Yes, this is futurism, envisioning steam automata. But little else is here.

Intangibles: 0 points I found little to recommend this one.

Total: 63/100 63% Steamish enough.

I looked forward to this one. Written in 1868, it's considered to be the first edisonade, and the first American novel with a robot. The story here revolves around a boy genius, and the adventures encountered when he takes a steam powered man for a joy ride on the prairie.  It  was poorly written, and full of the 'wow' factor that I hated in Galactica 1980. Look, it's a flying motorcyle! Look it's a steam boiler with piston legs, and back wheels! While it is true that people would be impressed with it the first time, the luster is soon lost on the audience, and the superlatives need to stop after a while. They didn't.

Also while I have been a proponent of a degree of ethnic/gender/class discrimination in Steampunk, I was completely taken aback by the depictions of 'the other' in this story. The other, in this case, being Native Americans and Irish. I think that the most annoying thing about this is  that the stereotypes were used to make straw man characters that were simply plot devices. There is more here, but I want to deal with this more in my  review of 20,000 Leagues.

Finally the story is sub-titled, "The Huge Hunter", who makes a single apperance, as a very bad person, and then is avoided, and never seen again. What's going on here? Was there another half of the book that got dropped? Makes me wonder. But not much, this book was to long as it was.

 

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