The Friday Society follows the lives of three clever & capable women, all three assistants to powerful men in turn of the century London. Cora, a lab assistant to an inventor often found in opium labs, Nellie, a magician’s assistant to the highly-acclaimed Great Raheem, and Michiko, a Japanese fight assistant whose employer can’t understand much of what she’s saying to him. When people are mysteriously killed, the girls take it upon themselves to get to the bottom of it. An unlikely trio who become fast friends, they use their individual skills to work together to solve something the police don’t seem too interested in, before it’s too late.
This was my first steampunk novel, and it was definitely a fun read! I loved the theme of feminism throughout the whole story especially set in olde-tyme England. Perhaps because of the overwhelming sense of girl power, it allowed the readers to really assess the male characters and their motives. I kept suspecting the wrong people, or felt like I was wrong to be trusting others. Told through alternating POVs between the three girls, Kress does a good job of keeping the story moving while still giving adequate time to each girl’s story. I especially loved the tenth chapter, where it was broken out by quarters (10¼, 10½ & 10¾) , indicating it’s still the same scene – but different POVs.
While I found Nellie to be a bit too airheady and Michiko’s disjointed conversations with the other two girls to be a bit tiresome after a while, I definitely loved Cora’s personality and character the most. She was tough, smart and earned the respect of powerful men by seeing her as an equal. I also loved The Great Raheem, who is such a great supporting character in this book. He exhibited the kind of reverence and respect while not being patronizing towards his young assistant and her new friends. I find that it can be a fine line between being a father figure and sounding condescending and Kress writes this dynamic well.
The Friday Society is a great steampunk mystery with a Charlie’s Angels kind of vibe. A very fun & entertaining read!
Also, as part of this blog tour, I’m delighted to have Adrienne Kress stop by to talk about steampunk! This genre is fairly new to me so I’ll leave it up to Lady Kress to share with you her thoughts!
Why Steampunk, why now?
It’s interesting to observe Steampunk gaining . . . uh . . .steam. This time last year we had a Justin Bieber Steampunk music video, and Barney’s had a Steampunk Holiday window theme. And yet that wasn’t even the apex. This year we have more books than ever coming out in both the adult and YA markets. As well as several TV shows and movies, either wholly Steampunk or with delightful Steampunk flavouring. And the fashion industry has happily taken it onboard – heck Tyra Banks did a Steampunk photoshoot with her top model candidates this past cycle.
But why Steampunk now?
Sometimes things just gain momentum and that’s all there is to it. But I do believe that, in the case of Steampunk, its current popularity reflects the current state of our society. The popularity of the oldy-timey Steampunk actually is a very modern thing.
Here are some of my thoughts on why:
1. We live in an age of magic. Most of us don’t actually understand how the tools we use work. I have this flat rectangular box that allows me to call people, take pictures, communicate by typing, play games and music, watch videos, etc., and so forth. It’s a magic box. How does it work? I have no idea. I really don’t. And most of us don’t. We live in a magical world, not quite understanding why things happen the way they do, but we are grateful for it nonetheless.
Still, the not knowing can also be frustrating. Steampunk technology, on the other hand, is human-sized. Where modern technology in some cases needs magnifying glasses or even a microscope to interact with it, Steampunk tech consists of gears, levers, etc. Basically it’s a world of Rube Goldberg-y devices, one thing affecting another. We can see it happen. Further we can understand how it happens, which means we can make it ourselves. You can look at it and think . . . that makes sense. Things that make sense are enjoyable.
2. Making stuff has become a popular trend. I think this also stems from living in a magical world. Since everything is pre-packaged, pre-made, just press a button and the food is hot, people are starting to rebel slightly. Twenty-somethings, considered first adopters of any new technology, now are also getting into cooking, and knitting, and crafts. It’s like we’re going through another Arts and Crafts movement. This is what also draws people to Steampunk: making your own clothes, props, inventions.
3. Whatever you think of the Hipster dogma (the “it’s only cool if no one else knows about it” thing), you can’t deny its influence on fashion. Steampunk fashion has a great deal of crossover with it. Suspenders, button down shirts, hats and moustaches. It’s hard
to know which came first, Steampunk or the Hipster (the Hipsters would say they did, of course), but each has contributed to the popularity of the other.
4. There is something of the slower pace of the past that people also enjoy in the present. It’s nothing new to say we live in a fast-paced world. If I don’t answer an email the day of, the sender worries something’s wrong. If I don’t answer a text almost instantly, I’m ignoring my friend. Obviously the Victorian/Edwardian period was much slower. Steampunk societies go for group outings that usually consist of walks. Steampunk creators take their time working on their projects. It’s a different tempo.
5. Manners. Whether or not we are less mannered now is a matter of opinion. Surely in some ways, definitely, but then again, I don’t think the lower classes from the Victorian period were necessarily all polite speech. Nor do I always see manners as being all positive. Sometimes the habit of tradition can get in the way of logic and progress. That being said, it’s nice to have a bit of formality. It’s nice for people to speak with some flare and a careful choice of words. It’s nice to be polite.
6. Cosplay. This is something specifically geeky, and not about society at large. Cosplay is a form of geekdom where fans will dress up as their favourite character, etc., at a convention. While you’ve always had people dressing up in Star Trek uniforms, cosplay has really exploded in the last decade – thanks in no small part to women attending conventions in higher numbers (not saying that men don’t enjoy it too, but you definitely see a correlation). It is fantastic to see the skill and effort put into making these costumes, and more and more people are getting into it. Steampunk has become a staple of conventions, and there are cosplayers who, having never considered doing Steampunk before, think, “Oh, that’s neat!” I know a group of people who first were introduced to Steampunk when someone suggested they do a Steampunk X-men.
7. Tea. Everyone loves tea. And high tea, with little sandwiches and cakes . . . so good.
So these are some of my theories, and I’m sure others can add their own, so please do below!