We are devoting this week to the Master of Macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. Quite fitting as we feature “Monsters, Beasts, and Chimeras: Spooks and Spectres.”
I nearly squealed in excitement the minute I saw this book in our library. While I confess to not having read a lot of steampunk literature, the genre has always intrigued me. Seeing it seamlessly blended to Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and poetry makes this book a veritable work of modern art.
In the Introduction of this book, the reader will be able to find a condensed history of Poe’s life and how the steampunk genre is able to illuminate most of his narratives that are tinged with just a touch of darkness while some are riddled with technological details (The Balloon Hoax for one is an example of the latter). Allow me to quote from the introduction:
The steampunk genre didn’t exist when Edgar Allan Poe was penning his masterful mysteries and nightmarish horror stories, so you might be wondering how, exactly, the two have come together in this book. The greatest writers, though, produce works that transcend their own times, allowing each new generation of readers to discover them anew. And Edgar Allan Poe is nothing if not one of the greatest American writers in history.
There are seven stories and six poems included in this Edgar Allan Poe compilation. There is The Masque of the Red Death which is believed to be linked to the disease that plagued Poe’s mother when he was but a toddler:
The Tell-Tale Heart which speaks of unremitting guilt and the pulsating sounds that only the depraved can hear.
And who can forget The Fall of the House of Usher and the deep melancholia that pervades – it overwhelms the entire being and drives one to madness.
The Murders in the Rue Morgue which influenced Arthur Conan Doyle so deeply that Sherlock Holmes was born
and the deeply disturbing The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether making one reflect on the thin line between sanity and lunacy. Is one able to determine with startling clarity the distinction between one and the other – or if that is even at all possible, with the definitions of being ‘normal’ continually evolving from one society to the next, influenced by sociopolitical realities.
There are two stories that are unfamiliar to me here: The Balloon Hoax (which went over my head) and The Spectacles which I enjoyed greatly.
This collection also reminded me of how laborious Poe’s language could be, but ultimately rewarding as one appreciates its intricacies and complexities. However, it does require a great deal of concentration and effort and a bit of rereading too if one’s attention lapses even for a second. I would have wanted more illustrations, though, as the artists are truly masterful, and the inclusion of The Pit and the Pendulum which I have just recently discovered. The artwork has very clearly made Poe’s voice even more distinct, transforming the narrative into something even more surreal and otherworldly.
Here is a video clip of the book trailer that you might enjoy:
For other fans of Poe, you may also want to check out the more accessible versions of Gris Grimly in Tales of Death and Dementia
and Tales of Mystery and Madness.
Steampunk Poe illustrated by Zdenko Basic and Manuel Sumberac. Published by Running Press Teens, 2011. Book borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.
Read-a-Latte Challenge: 215 (150)