No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Saturday, February 12, 2011

2011/07: Soulless -- Gail Carriger

"You only wiped off the 'I'?" said Lord Maccon, looking thoughtfully at the puddle of homunculus simulacrum residue ... "So you turned VIXI -- to be alive -- into VIX -- with difficulty. Thus the automaton could still move, but only barely. In order to destroy it entirely, you needed to remove the word and the activation particulate completely, breaking the aetheromagnetic connection."
"Well," huffed Miss Tarabotti, "how was I supposed to know that? It was my first automaton." (p. 263)
Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster of 26, half-Italian and wholly misunderstood by her mother, stepfather and two younger half-sisters. She dresses well and knows how to wield a buckshot-weighted parasol. She has, literally, no soul -- a state which makes her less prone to sentimentality than many another heroine, and negates the supernatural powers of vampires, werewolves and ghosts. London in the 1870s is simply teeming with such types, and some of them have appalling manners.

All over London, vampires are disappearing and new vampires are being created in a mysterious, unnatural fashion. Drawn into the investigation, Alexia finds herself working with the Bureau of Unnatural Registry (BUR)and especially with its chief, Lord Conall Maccon, who happens to be a werewolf. Alexia would like not to find him fascinating. This is probably mutual.

Soulless is set in a steampunk nineteenth century, with dirigibles, scientific lectures, vampire queens, mysterious disappearances (for which Alexia is initially blamed) and vile bonnets. Quite aside from the aforementioned supernaturals, I don't think this world is wholly identical to our own: repeated reference to the British Isle, singular; Canterbury as a port city (and yes, this could be an error, but it could also indicate an alternate geography).

There are some delightful characters (camp vampire Lord Akeldama, Lord Maccon's second-in-command Professor Lyall, and Alexia's best friend Ivy in particular) and some wry asides on the more nonsensical aspects of Victorian society. Most of all, Soulless is immense fun. I'm looking forward to reading more in this series -- sequels are Blameless, Changeless, and Heartless (coming in July).

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