I have confession to make. I read this one a while ago. Even worse, it was out of order. After finishing my course of Steampunk's foundational scientific romance, I was burned out. I loved Wells and I came to respect, then because of my middle son, love Verne. But the others, well there's a reason that the edisonade didn't last. I took a break, and listened to J.D. Sawyer's Down from Ten.
DF10 is a fascinating story that defies categorization. To tell the truth, I'm not entirely certain why I picked it. I had heard it was science fiction, erotic, controversial, and interesting. (But I digress, Sawyer's podcasts are a topic for another review post.) Anyway, smack dab in the middle of the DF10 podcast is a full cast audio dramatization of the first chapter of Soulless.
The riotous first chapter was enough to reenergize me for this steampuk lit project. I quickly reading of Morlock Night, which was, by comparison, tedious, and then the Adventures of Langton St. Ives (not tedious), and couldn't take it, I had to read the rest.
So here's the Steampunk Factor:
Technofantasy: 23 This one is hard. Soulless' tech is low key, oft revealed in conversation rather than encountered directly. This does a great deal to provide a sense of the 19th c. wonder at the marvels of technology that at least drew me to Steampunk. It's there it's amazing, but it's not everywhere, and it allows people to marvel in a way they couldn't if immersed.
Neo-Victorianism: 30 Attitudes, descriptions, and language in this book were spot on, I don't think I ever suspended my disbelief.
Retro-futurism: 27 The retrofuturism in Soulless is cultural. While never stepping outside the bounds of actual 19th c. examples, like the Elizabeth Bennet, the New Woman, or Oscar Wilde, issues of women's and sexual identity rights are brought to the fore.
Intangibles: 8 I give Soulless an 8 for just being a romp.
Total: 88/100 Pretty damn high.
Tech is neither ubiquitous, or over the top. But it is definitely self-consciously steampunk. From the early appearance of goggles, and far off glimpses of dirigibles, to underground laboratories; Soulless delivers that in spades. But it is also quite more. It has aspects of the classic 19th c. comedy of manners, and then also supernatural elements like vampires an werewolves. One of the fascinating points with the vampires and werewolves is the whole alternate history that Carriger has created to explain the presence of supernatural creatures in British society.