Steampunk Book Review: A Matter of Temperance
When I was taking Art History classes in college, one of my favorite units was on something called “art of the naïve.” We often associate naivety with negative connotations, such as uncouth or uninformed, but in this case it means “untrained.” The art we studied during that class was the result of the creative impulse pouring itself out through someone who was not an “artist” by training or trade. They were spontaneous and made only for the satisfaction of the person who made them. There was something so pure and remarkable in these unpolished and unorthodox works; the joy of the uncontained creative spark.
In my class we were looking at visual arts of course, but this same idea plays itself out in other arenas as well. Probably the most obvious (and fast-growing) is in self-publishing. A Matter of Temperance, and its six sequels, are a great example of one of these works that came pouring out from an unlikely source, and there is a charming aspect to the way author, Ichabod Temperance, eschews some of the “rules” of writing because he is driven by the indelible yearning to create something.
By the time Temperance sent me a few of his books to review, we had already been friends online for a long time. He has been a faithful following of this blog since the beginning, but it wasn’t until I got an e-mail talking about his books that I knew how he found his way to writing. He and his muse, Persephone Plumtartt, are characters born of a fun little exercise they both did years ago. The Steampunk Empire has place for people to create profiles for imaginary Steampunk personas, and the two of them each imagined their own. After seeing what the other one wrote, they realized that these two would have marvelous adventures together, and furthermore, they absolutely should. Seven books later, Temperance tells me he has so much fun writing them he has no intention to stop.
A Matter of Temperance is the first book in the Adventures of Ichabod Temperance, but each book is meant to stand on its own so they can be read in any order. The world Mr. Temperance and Ms. Plumtartt inhabit is an alternate version of the 1870’s, where a few years earlier the passage of “The Revelatory Comet” changed the trajectory of human existence. After the comet disappeared, some people began to show signs of extraordinary abilities, especially for inventing and problem-solving. Ichabod, a simple young man from Alabama, is one of these tinkerers, and he creates specialized goggles. His newest order comes from London, and having never left his homeland, he decides to venture forth and deliver the goggles in person.
Meanwhile, there has been a series of attacks by “ghosts,” or at least, that is what they are calling the unseen entities. As Ms. Plumtartt, recent heir to the Plumtartt manufacturing fortune after the strange death of her father at the hands on an otherworldly foe, soon discovers, they are not ghosts at all. Instead, these trans-dimensional beasties seem bent on destroying not only her father’s work, but her as well. After a daring rescue by Ichabod, the two set off on a journey that takes them all over the world, including a trip into the belly of the Kraken itself.
Is this book a masterpiece of fiction? No, but very few are. Did I enjoy reading it? Absolutely. I thought the story had a lot of imagination, and I liked that Temperance created his own unique monsters to pursue his heroes rather than falling back on the overworked canon of fantasy beasts. There were a few places where the lack of dialog tags (he says, she screamed, etc) made it a bit difficult to follow, and there were a few places that, as an editor, I would have circled and left a question mark behind, unsure if the word on the page was what the author truly intended. On the flip side, there was a lot of fun alliteration that made me smile and felt appropriate in this light-hearted tale.
You can find the collected works of Ichabod “Icky” Temperance on Amazon in paperback or Kindle, and you can check out his website for more info about the world these characters inhabit and the many inventions of Ichabod.
And keep sending me pictures of your creations, cosplay, whatever, to firstname.lastname@example.org so I can showcase them here at the end of the month!