An Introduction to Steven Harper’s The Doomsday Vault
By Penguin (Ace/Roc) SFF editor Anne Sowards
At its core, steampunk is fun. Where else can you find fantastical gears and gadgets, airships, clockwork cats, mad geniuses, walking mechanical trees, zombies, and pirates, all wrapped up in pseudo-Victorian mores, manners, and fashion? And those are just some of the awesome things you’ll encounter in Steven Harper’s first novel of the Clockwork Empire.
But what first got my attention when I started reading The Doomsday Vault is The Dress. That’s right, The Dress. One of the things I love about steampunk is its juxtaposition of the very proper 19th century sensibility with Go-Go-Gadget wackiness. In the opening chapter, the Honorable Alice B. Michaels is making her way to the event of the season, a party her father has called in all his favors to get her in to. You see, due to the death of most of her family from the clockwork plague, she’s a social pariah, and this is her last-ditch effort to snag a husband. As part of this, she’s wearing The Dress, which is such an impressive fashion creation that it’s worthy of a proper noun. Over the course of the evening, Alice finds herself under attack by plague zombies — and the fate of The Dress? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.