Waiting on Wednesday
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
Release Date: February 3, 2015
“You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I’m one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It’s French, so Beatrice tells me.”
Hugo-Award winning author Elizabeth Bear offers something new in Karen Memory, an absolutely entrancing steampunk novel set in Seattle in the late 19th century—an era when the town was called Rapid City, when the parts we now call Seattle Underground were the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes bringing would-be miners heading up to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront. Karen is a “soiled dove,” a young woman on her own who is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts into her world one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, seeking sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.
Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper-type story of the old west with the light touch of Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.
I first saw KAREN MEMORY on someone else’s Waiting on Wednesday post — sorry, I can’t remember who! I’m in the middle of watching Penny Dreadful right now, and this book sounds like a perfect fit to my mood from that show. Just the feel of it, y’know?
Anyway, I’ve wanted to read something of Elizabeth Bear’s for a long time, but I just haven’t. So KAREN MEMORY will hopefully be the first, because this seems like a perfect book for me. Steampunk? Check. A bordello? Check. Historical AU? Check. Tons of awesome things? Check.
Bring on February!
Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.