The Guns Above Q1 Expectations

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What were your expectations before reading The Guns Above? Did it surprise you in any way? Did it meet your expectations? What did it do well that you didn't expect? What did it not do well that you had expected better for?

Comments

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    I'd expected it to be YA and so it was, so no surprises there. (For some reason that I cannot fathom, almost all Steampunk seems to fit here, although I'm sure the genre could lend itself to regular adult fiction)

    I had expected that the fussy nobleman and the lady captain would get romantically involved, so it was a neat twist to have the romance starting up with the captain's mother.

    The aerial battles were well done, though I kind of felt by the end that it was pretty much all battle, and I personally would have liked to learn more about the society at large when it wasn't at war.

    A lot of Steampunk seems to go down an alternate timeline route (eg some particular scientific or magical discovery around the late 18th or early 19th centuries which pushed social and technological development in a different direction than our own). This was (so far as I could tell) simply a human world which was broadly similar to ours but not actually the same at all - the countries and factions were intended to remind one of European warring states, but weren't just thinly-disguised names for (say) France and Germany, or whatever. This was interesting, but also left a lot of questions unanswered about the world, and left me feeling that the story was rather unrooted in anything.

    I did, however, enjoy it!

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    Steampunk always seems closely associated with classism and colonialsim, and saying things like the British Empire was good, actually, and aristocrats are the best people and should be in charge. So I was pleasantly surprised when this book didn't go down that road, keeping the action focussed on the middle- and lower-classes and in Europe.

    It was a bit more like a reskinned Sharpe or Hornblower than I was expecting. Not necessarily a bad thing, as those are both good book series. But this wasn't the most original book.

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    I was expecting more or less military fiction along the Sharpe lines, and that’s pretty much what I got. I don’t have high expectations from the steampunk genre, as they mostly seem to be unoriginal copycats in terms of setting trappings. There was certainly nothing original about the setting of this book, or the characters, or the events. Even the witty repartee was conventional.
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    Didn't really have any expectations, and was pleasantly surprised. Read quickly, and was very familiar even though I'm not really well-read in steam-punk. I expected more how to say explicitness than there was.

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    By way of contrast, I’ve been reading the Tower of Babel series by Josiah Bancroft, which opens with the novel Senlin Ascends. I bought it mainly for what I thought would be dystopian themes and because I thought it would have interesting things to say about society. It also has vaguely Babylonian trappings. I imagined it to be something like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. And that’s how it started out in the first book. As we got to the end of the first book, I started to realize it wasn’t that at all, but a steampunk story in a dystopian setting.

    As I kept reading the story got more and more swashbuckly toward the end of book 1 and into book 2. It’s got airships with cannons and silk balloons, and mechanical ‘robots’ that climb the walls of the tower like spiders, repairing things. Also steam powered artificial limbs and eyes and so on.

    The setting is the Tower of Babel, a monstrous tower built in the desert for no obvious reason. Each floor is a separate kingdom. If the first book, we see each of tge first three floors have distinct character and purpose. But tge author doesn’t sustain this pattern, and floors further up are a little more generic. Except for an abandoned floor occupied by hods (slaves) and a sort of machinists lab on another floor.

    Aside from the swashbuckling, it devotes it’s time to exploring class issues (nobility vs hods) and gender based class and the treatment of women. Societies mores are very much like you might expect from a ye generic euro-colonial setting. The author has written a lot of strong female characters into the story, all savvy and physical and, well, manlike- as if the solution to sexist discrimination was to show that women could be he-men, too (in a society where most women are not well treated). This is a pretty common trope these days and not one I feel I can subscribe to, so this aspect of the book doesn’t thrill me. Mostly, I’m still looking for the Brazil in Babel, and could care less about the steaminess.

    But the writing itself is quite good. The story telling is also quite good through the first two books. Books 3 and 4 are 50% larger and larger, so I think there’s some Rowling disease going on here where what the author thinks is the story keeps getting bigger and the published can’t rein him in. Certainly 200 pages could easily have been stripped from the third book without sacrificing story. The book mostly leaves the central character alone and follows tge secondary characters (which I found a bit boring), and then at the 2/3 mark it breaks and rewinds to cover the same events it just did from another character’s perspective (which was even more boring). I’m going to give it a rest before tackling book 4, which is the fattest of the lot. Despite the problems with book 3, I’ve found a lot to like in the series.

    The setting is only vaguely Babylonian. We have a Tower of Babel located in a country called Ur. This is a desert country, but seems to abound in pleasant English seaside villages. Coinage are called Shekels and Minas. That’s about all that’s Babylonian. Everything else is European - character names, placenames, social structure, etc. There are no cylinder seals or scribes or prophecies or omens or scorpion men or anything. Instead we have steam engines and age of sail and brothels and mysterious oil paintings and haughty courtiers . it’s a more interesting setting than Guns Above - but still pretty cookie cutter in many ways. Par for the steampunk course?
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    I hadn't heard of these books before and (accepting your caveats about the later volumes) the premise sounds interesting
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    @clash_bowley Did you have any opinions?

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    @Apocryphal said:
    @clash_bowley Did you have any opinions?

    Just basically what you all found juvenile and tiresome I found interesting and enjoyable, but I assumed that going in. I'm fine.

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