I do not do many book reviews, as my RL impositions unfortunately tend to intrude on the amount of time available to properly read a published endeavor. However, when approached with regards to A Steampunk’s Guide to Sex, it seemed an intriguing crossroads between Steampunk and a topic not usually associated with the genre, so I accepted the offer. A good choice, as interestingly enough, it proved to be one of the better Steampunk works I have had the pleasure to read.
As the topic does state, it is about sex and Steampunk, or perhaps more accurately for the majority of the work, sex in the Victorian era. In a direct and informative manner, the authors (as it is a collaborative work), provide an insightful view into the vices, engagements, and entanglements of the era. While incisive but taciturn in its narrative(e.g. there are no inappropriately lascivious descriptions with regard to the topic), the first three sections certainly exemplify “fact is stranger than fiction”. I was quite under the impression that I was well informed about this particular topic, but to my surprise after reading The Guide, I was enlightened to the impressive extent over a range of topics, ranging from Victorian slang (with regards to sex) to 19th century pornography (and the amazing efforts to smuggle it into England), from the world of Victorian prostitution, to the unexpected impact effect women migrating to the United States west had on civilizing the frontier, and from bizarrely painful cures for sexually transmitted diseases, to a really nice and informative chapter on how to perform a Can Can – from attire to steps!
The last two sections seemed to be a bit incongruous, with a mix of very informative era information (including details on corsetry and era piercing (yes, including the well known “Prince Albert” modification – which has its own unique history)), other topics that seem a bit shoe-horned, or at the very least I did not see a direct association between the individual chapters and the genre. Nonetheless, the book itself is very brisk in its layout, readability, and with the aforementioned plethora of topics, and makes one lose track of time as the pages turn! I would most certainly state the Steampunk’s Guide to Sex is an excellent and well presented primer to a basic and essential topic to anyone interested in the Steampunk genre – and I would most definitively recommend it as an indispensable work for any Steampunk library.
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