In 1987, K.W. Jeter coined the term “steam-punks” to refer to the cyberpunk variant of literature that he, and others, had begun to write, novels set in an alternate Victorian England with advanced steam technology. Considered one of the founding fathers of steampunk, it is only now that Jeter has returned to the genre, picking up the threads from Infernal Devices.
London is a world much-changed since we left George Dower, son of a mad inventor of all things gadgetry. The advent of steam has created a craze for the application of its technology and the aesthetic, a commentary on the vibrant counterculture which has emerged in the twenty-first century. Dower’s financial woes may be solved if he can help a man from his past find and fix one of his father’s technologies, the Vox Universalis. When Dower agrees to help, we are swept into the bizarreness of Jeter’s invention, a world where a lighthouse can uproot itself, specialized brothels cater to London’s steam-obsessed haut monde and sentient Cetaceans are proselytized.
Fiendish Schemes is a darkly humored portrayal of Victorian London written in the style of the period and is not for the faint of heart.
This review first appeared in the February 2014 issue of Historical Novel Review. I was provided with a copy of this book for the purposes of a review.