Title: Stone Mad
Author: Elizabeth Bear
Publication Date: March 20, 2018
A little over three years since we last saw them in Karen Memory, one of my favorite steampunk reads, Karen and Priya make their long-awaited return in Stone Mad by Elizabeth Bear.
Although there are still some steampunk elements to this – most notably the infamous Singer sewing machine mech suit, along with a newly fashioned spider-corset that is full of awesome surprises – the story shifts more into the spiritual side of the Victorian era, dabbling in hauntings, seances, and sceptical illusionists. Mind you, most of those elements are red herrings, designed to distract us from the real danger of the creepy little tommy-knocker, but they do come full circle to rounds things out.
While all of that is a fun backdrop, complete with a frantic pursuit deeper into the collapsing hotel, this is really the story of Karen and Priya. They’ve used their reward for saving the world to buy themselves a little farmstead, and even if they cannot legally marry, they are living as wife-and-wife. Things are strained between them, though, and Karen’s habit of throwing herself headlong into danger strains things even further.
Once again, Karen’s folksy narration drives the read, and the characters make the ride worth enjoying. For a short story, Bear does a fantastic job of establishing her characters, imbuing the seance sisters and the illusionist’s wife with as much personality as Karen and Priya. It’s all over too soon, but there’s something to be said for not overstaying your welcome.
Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀
I’m so glad I found you Beauty in Ruins. I loved Karen Memory when I read it a few years back. I can’t believe I had completely forgotten about it. Yet, the Singer sewing machine mech suit left such an impression, I think I dream of it.
Thanks for writing this review. I must pick up Stone Mad.