50 best Steampunk Novels and Short Stories
Steampunk, a captivating subgenre of science fiction, has enthralled readers with its unique blend of Victorian aesthetics, steam-powered technology, and futuristic elements. With a rich history and a plethora of imaginative tales, Steampunk novels and short stories have captured the hearts and minds of readers worldwide. In this article, we will delve into the history of Steampunk and provide you with a curated list of ten exemplary stories that showcase the essence of this enthralling genre.
The History of Steampunk:
The roots of Steampunk Novels can be traced back to the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, renowned authors whose imaginative stories laid the foundation for the genre. However, it was in the 1980s and 1990s that Steampunk truly gained momentum, owing to the efforts of authors like K.W. Jeter, James Blaylock, and Tim Powers. They popularized the term “Steampunk” and set the stage for an explosion of creativity within the genre.
Steampunk Novels and Short Stories: 50 Must-Reads
“Perdido Street Station” by China Miéville
Set in the sprawling city of New Crobuzon, “Perdido Street Station” introduces readers to Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, a scientist whose experiments lead to disastrous consequences. As he embarks on a perilous quest to save the life of a mysterious creature, Isaac delves into the dark underbelly of the city, encountering eccentric characters and encountering bizarre and imaginative creatures along the way.
China Miéville’s world-building is unparalleled, creating a rich and intricate steampunk landscape that is both awe-inspiring and terrifying. “Perdido Street Station” is a masterful blend of steampunk, fantasy, and horror, offering readers a compelling and immersive journey into a city on the brink of chaos.
“The City of Brass” by S.A. Chakraborty
Immerse yourself in a captivating blend of steampunk and Middle Eastern mythology. Follow Nahri, a skilled con artist in 18th-century Cairo, as she unwittingly summons a djinn and discovers her own magical abilities. Drawn into a world of political intrigue and simmering tensions, Nahri embarks on a treacherous journey to the hidden city of Daevabad, where magical creatures and steampunk-inspired technology coexist.
As she navigates the complex web of rival factions and confronts her own heritage, Nahri must decide where her loyalties lie. With its lush descriptions, intricate world-building, and engaging characters, “The City of Brass” immerses readers in a vibrant world of adventure, where ancient powers clash with steampunk innovation.
“The Invisible Library” by Genevieve Cogman
Prepare to embark on a thrilling adventure through steampunk-infused worlds in this captivating novel. Meet Irene, a resourceful librarian from an enigmatic organization that traverses alternate realities to collect rare books. Tasked with retrieving a particularly dangerous volume, Irene finds herself entangled in a web of intrigue, magic, and treachery. As she navigates steampunk-inspired realms filled with mechanical marvels and mythical creatures, Irene must outwit adversaries, uncover hidden conspiracies, and safeguard the delicate balance between the realms.
“The Invisible Library” is a delightful blend of mystery, action, and literary references, capturing the joy of bibliophilia and the allure of parallel worlds. Genevieve Cogman weaves a tale that celebrates the power of books and the wonders that can be found within their pages.
“The Court of the Air” by Stephen Hunt
Welcome to an alternate Victorian England, where ancient prophecies, secret societies, and steampunk wonders collide in an epic tale. Follow the destinies of Molly Templar and Oliver Brooks, two orphans who unknowingly hold the key to a world-changing secret. As they uncover their own identities and confront a grand conspiracy, Molly and Oliver find themselves entangled in a dangerous game played by powerful factions.
Their journey takes them from the grimy streets of the Steamman Free State to the opulent halls of the Sky Palace, where airships rule the skies and clockwork creations walk among humans. “The Court of the Air” is a fast-paced adventure that immerses readers in a richly imagined steampunk world, where technology, magic, and political machinations shape the destiny of nations.
“Etiquette & Espionage” by Gail Carriger
Step into a steampunk Victorian England where young ladies are not only taught proper manners but also the art of espionage. Meet Sophronia Temminnick, who is reluctantly enrolled in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. As Sophronia learns the intricacies of etiquette and the secrets of covert operations, she discovers that her finishing school is not what it seems.
With dirigibles hovering above, mechanical servants attending to their every need, and lessons in both manners and espionage, Sophronia finds herself entangled in a web of mysteries and dangerous schemes. Gail Carriger‘s “Etiquette & Espionage” is a delightful romp through a steampunk world filled with witty banter, inventive contraptions, and a dash of supernatural intrigue, offering a fresh and entertaining take on both coming-of-age stories and espionage adventures.
“God Save the Queen” by Kate Locke
In an alternate London ruled by vampires and werewolves, Xandra Vardan is an everyday citizen with extraordinary connections. When a dangerous supernatural artifact is stolen, Xandra is drawn into a deadly power struggle. With steampunk-inspired technology and hidden agendas, Xandra navigates a complex world of politics, power plays, and shifting loyalties.
Alongside her loyal allies, Xandra fights against the constraints of her society and discovers the strength within herself. “God Save the Queen” combines elements of urban fantasy, steampunk aesthetics, and political intrigue, delivering a thrilling and imaginative adventure filled with memorable characters and a world teetering on the brink of revolution.
“The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern
Enter a mesmerizing realm of enchantment and illusion in this atmospheric tale. While not strictly steampunk, “The Night Circus” captures the essence of fantastical and whimsical elements. Set in the late 19th century, two young magicians are bound in a competition that takes place within the confines of a mysterious circus that appears only at night.
As Celia and Marco weave their magic, the circus becomes a stage for breathtaking performances, awe-inspiring feats, and a love story that transcends time and space. Erin Morgenstern‘s lyrical prose brings to life a world of wonder and imagination, immersing readers in a spellbinding tale that blurs the line between reality and fantasy.
“Stormdancer” by Jay Kristoff
Prepare to be transported to a steampunk-inspired feudal Japan filled with mythical creatures and gripping adventure. Follow Yukiko, a young warrior with a special connection to a thunder tiger, as she embarks on a dangerous quest. Alongside a band of rebels, Yukiko must navigate a treacherous landscape of political intrigue, corruption, and industrial pollution.
As she confronts her own beliefs and discovers the hidden powers within her, Yukiko becomes a symbol of hope in a world on the brink of destruction. Jay Kristoff‘s “Stormdancer” is a thrilling blend of steampunk aesthetics, fantastical creatures, and a richly detailed Japanese-inspired setting, offering readers a gripping tale of courage, redemption, and the clash between nature and industry.
“The Watchmaker of Filigree Street” by Natasha Pulley
Enter the atmospheric world of Victorian London, where secrets, clockwork mechanisms, and destiny intertwine. Meet Thaniel Steepleton, a telegraphist who discovers an intricately crafted watch that seemingly saves his life from a bomb. This encounter leads him to Keita Mori, a reclusive watchmaker with a mysterious past.
As Thaniel’s life becomes intertwined with Mori’s and the enchanting watch, he is drawn into a web of hidden truths and unexpected connections. Natasha Pulley weaves a captivating story filled with rich historical details, vivid characters, and a touch of magic. “The Watchmaker of Filigree Street” is a mesmerizing tale that explores themes of time, fate, and the delicate balance between free will and predetermined paths.
“Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl” by David Barnett
Embark on a swashbuckling adventure through an alternative Victorian era filled with mechanical wonders and fantastical escapades. Follow the heroic journey of Gideon Smith, an ordinary young man who finds himself thrust into extraordinary circumstances. When Gideon encounters the mechanical girl Maria, he becomes entangled in a dangerous quest that spans continents and reveals hidden truths about his world.
With airships soaring above, dastardly villains plotting, and a sense of relentless excitement, “Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl” delivers a rollicking steampunk adventure filled with eccentric characters, high-stakes action, and a dash of humor. David Barnett’s novel captures the spirit of classic adventure tales while embracing the imaginative and inventive aspects of the steampunk genre.
“Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” by Patrick Süskind
Set in 18th-century France, this mesmerizing novel follows Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a gifted but disturbed perfumer with an extraordinary sense of smell. As Grenouille obsessively pursues the creation of the perfect scent, he becomes entangled in a world of murder, desire, and the intoxicating power of fragrance.
“Perfume” is a dark and atmospheric tale that explores the complexities of obsession and the boundaries of the human senses, immersing readers in a vividly depicted historical setting. It is a masterpiece written by Patrick Suskind.
In this enthralling steampunk novel, time travel takes center stage. Set in Victorian London, the story weaves together the lives of various characters who are drawn into a web of time-altering conspiracies. With its intricate plotting and attention to historical detail, “The Map of Time” explores themes of love, fate, and the consequences of meddling with the fabric of time itself.
“Infernal Devices” by K.W. Jeter
Considered one of the pioneering works of steampunk, “Infernal Devices” is a dark and gritty novel set in a dystopian future where the British Empire rules over a decaying world. As George Dower, a reluctant inventor, gets caught up in a deadly conspiracy involving clockwork mechanisms and sinister forces, he must navigate a treacherous landscape of political intrigue and mechanical marvels. With its evocative prose and immersive world-building, “Infernal Devices” captures the essence of the steampunk aesthetic while delivering a thrilling and thought-provoking adventure.
“The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack” by Mark Hodder
Enter a steampunk Victorian England where history takes a fantastical turn. Investigator Sir Richard Francis Burton finds himself embroiled in a series of bizarre crimes linked to the legendary Spring Heeled Jack. With time travel, alternate realities, and strange technologies, this novel blends elements of mystery, adventure, and speculative fiction to create a captivating and imaginative tale.
“Larklight” by Philip Reeve
Prepare for a whimsical journey through space in this steampunk-inspired adventure. Set in an alternate universe where space travel is powered by Victorian technology, the story follows Art Mumby and his family as they embark on an intergalactic voyage. With its charming blend of steampunk aesthetics, cosmic wonders, and witty storytelling, “Larklight” is a delightful read for both young and adult readers alike.
“The Half-Made World” by Felix Gilman
In a world where reality is shaped by competing forces, the Line and the Gun, two supernatural factions battle for control. This steampunk novel follows the paths of Liv Alverhuysen, an idealistic doctor, and Creedmoor, a relentless agent of the Gun. As they navigate the treacherous landscape of a half-formed world, they become pawns in a larger conflict that will determine the fate of civilization itself. With its atmospheric prose, imaginative world-building, and exploration of themes such as identity and the price of power, “The Half-Made World” offers a thrilling and thought-provoking steampunk experience.
“The Peculiar” by Stefan Bachmann
In a Victorian England inhabited by both humans and faeries, Bartholomew Kettle, a changeling boy, gets caught up in a conspiracy that threatens the delicate balance between the two worlds. Blending elements of fantasy and steampunk, “The Peculiar” takes readers on a captivating journey filled with adventure, mystery, and a richly imagined setting. With its engaging characters and lyrical prose, this novel offers a fresh and enchanting take on the steampunk genre.
“Retribution Falls” by Chris Wooding
Set in a world of airships, pirates, and steampunk technology, “Retribution Falls” follows the misadventures of Darian Frey, captain of the airship Ketty Jay, and his ragtag crew of outcasts. When they unwittingly become embroiled in a dangerous conspiracy, they must navigate treacherous skies, face deadly adversaries, and confront their own troubled pasts. With its fast-paced action, witty banter, and colorful characters, Chris Woodling‘s Steampunk novel delivers a thrilling steampunk tale that combines elements of adventure, fantasy, and a touch of humor.
In an alternate history where the Dutch have harnessed alchemy to create a race of mechanical beings, the world is on the brink of a cataclysmic war. “The Mechanical” follows the story of Jax, a clockwork automaton with free will, who becomes entangled in a dangerous game of politics and rebellion. Blending elements of steampunk, historical fiction, and philosophical musings, this novel delves into themes of identity, ethics, and the nature of humanity. With its intricate world-building and complex characters, “The Mechanical” offers a thought-provoking exploration of power and agency set against a backdrop of mechanical marvels and geopolitical tensions.
“Karen Memory” by Elizabeth Bear
In the gritty and vibrant world of Gold Rush-era Seattle, Karen Memery, a young prostitute, becomes entangled in a dangerous conspiracy that threatens the lives of her friends and the future of the city. With its blend of steampunk aesthetics, wild west atmosphere, and diverse cast of characters, “Karen Memory” offers a thrilling and immersive reading experience. Elizabeth Bear‘s novel explores themes of empowerment, social justice, and the strength of found family, all within the framework of a rollicking steampunk adventure.
“Leviathan” by Scott Westerfeld
Set in an alternate World War I, “Leviathan” follows the adventures of two teenagers, Deryn and Alek, who find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. Deryn, a girl disguised as a boy, serves aboard the British airship Leviathan, while Alek, a prince in hiding, navigates a dangerous path through war-torn Europe. With its inventive blend of steampunk technology and genetically engineered creatures, this novel offers a thrilling and imaginative take on history. Scott Westerfeld‘s captivating storytelling and detailed world-building make “Leviathan” a must-read for fans of action-packed steampunk adventures.
“Soulless” by Gail Carriger
In this delightful blend of steampunk and supernatural fiction, Gail Carriger introduces readers to Alexia Tarabotti, a woman without a soul in a world filled with werewolves, vampires, and other supernatural beings. As Alexia investigates a mysterious paranormal occurrence and crosses paths with the enigmatic Lord Maccon, a werewolf, she becomes embroiled in a dangerous conspiracy that threatens the delicate balance between humans and the supernatural. “Soulless” is a witty and charming steampunk romp filled with humor, romance, and a dash of Victorian manners, making it a delightful addition to the genre.
“Boneshaker” by Cherie Priest
In a post-apocalyptic Seattle, where a disastrous experiment has unleashed a toxic gas that turns people into zombies, Briar Wilkes embarks on a dangerous journey into the city’s underground to save her son. With its gritty atmosphere, mechanical inventions, and relentless action, “Boneshaker” delivers a thrilling steampunk adventure set against a backdrop of survival and family bonds. Cherie Priest‘s novel captures the essence of the genre, immersing readers in a world of decay, desperation, and the indomitable human spirit.
“The Alchemy of Stone” by Ekaterina Sedia
In a city powered by alchemy and ruled by factions of mechanics and alchemists, Mattie, an intelligent automaton, yearns for freedom and self-determination. As she becomes entangled in a complex web of political intrigue and forbidden knowledge, Mattie must confront her own desires and the limitations imposed upon her by her creators. “The Alchemy of Stone” is a beautifully crafted steampunk novel that explores themes of sentience, oppression, and the pursuit of dreams. Ekaterina Sedia‘s lyrical prose and thought-provoking storytelling create a poignant tale of identity and the search for one’s place in a world of gears and steam.
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
In this gripping prequel to the “Mortal Instruments” series, Cassandra Clare introduces readers to a Victorian London infested with supernatural creatures. When Tessa Gray discovers she possesses a unique power coveted by dark forces, she finds herself drawn into the dangerous world of Shadowhunters, demon hunters who also dabble in steampunk-inspired gadgets and inventions. With its blend of paranormal romance, action, and intricate world-building, “Clockwork Angel” offers a captivating steampunk fantasy that immerses readers in a Victorian-era London where magic, mystery, and adventure intertwine.
“Ghosts of Manhattan” by George Mann
In an alternative 1920s New York City, where Prohibition is in full swing and technology has advanced to steam-powered wonders, detective Gabriel Cross hunts down criminals and unravels conspiracies. When a mysterious masked vigilante known as the Ghost starts terrorizing the city, Gabriel finds himself caught in a web of intrigue and danger. “Ghosts of Manhattan” is a thrilling steampunk noir filled with action, suspense, and larger-than-life characters. George Mann‘s atmospheric storytelling and meticulous attention to detail bring the alternate New York City to life, making this novel a must-read for fans of gritty detective tales and steampunk adventures.
“Mortal Engines” by Philip Reeve
In a dystopian world where cities roam on massive traction cities and prey upon smaller settlements, Tom Natsworthy, an apprentice historian, uncovers a dark secret that could change the course of civilization. As he crosses paths with Hester Shaw, a scarred and vengeful outcast, they embark on a perilous journey that challenges their beliefs and threatens the fragile balance of power. “Mortal Engines” is a captivating blend of steampunk, adventure, and social commentary. Philip Reeve‘s imaginative world-building and dynamic characters make this novel a standout in the genre, offering readers an epic and thought-provoking tale of survival, morality, and the consequences of unchecked ambition.
“The Difference Engine” by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
Considered a seminal work in the steampunk genre, “The Difference Engine” takes readers to an alternate Victorian era where Charles Babbage’s invention, the Analytical Engine, was successfully built and ushered in a technological revolution. In this intricately imagined world, where steam-powered machinery shapes society, two unlikely heroes find themselves entangled in a deadly conspiracy. With its meticulous attention to detail and exploration of themes such as technology, power, and the impact of the industrial revolution, this collaborative novel by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling is a must-read for steampunk enthusiasts and fans of speculative fiction alike.
“The Clockwork Dynasty” by Daniel H. Wilson
Blending historical fiction with elements of steampunk and mythology, “The Clockwork Dynasty” introduces readers to a hidden world of ancient mechanical beings known as avtomats. Spanning centuries, the story alternates between the present day and the past, following the journeys of June Stefanov and Peter Rashkin as they uncover the truth about the avtomats and their role in shaping human history. With its evocative prose, intricate world-building, and a blend of action, mystery, and philosophical questions about the nature of humanity, Daniel H. Wilson‘s novel offers a unique and engrossing steampunk narrative that combines history, mythology, and the allure of artificial intelligence.
In the third installment of the Newbury & Hobbes series, Sir Maurice Newbury, a detective in a steampunk-infused Victorian London, finds himself entangled in a web of murder, intrigue, and supernatural horrors. As he investigates a series of gruesome killings, Newbury uncovers a dark conspiracy that threatens the very fabric of society. With the help of his resourceful assistant Veronica Hobbes, he must navigate a dangerous path that leads to an ancient artifact with unimaginable power. “The Immorality Engine” combines elements of mystery, steampunk technology, and the supernatural, delivering a thrilling and atmospheric tale filled with twists, suspense, and the indomitable spirit of its charismatic protagonists.
“The Aeronaut’s Windlass” by Jim Butcher
In a world of floating cities and airships, Captain Grimm and his crew navigate the skies as privateers, seeking adventure and fortune. When a mysterious force threatens their city, they find themselves embroiled in a deadly conspiracy that could plunge their world into chaos. “The Aeronaut’s Windlass” combines elements of steampunk, fantasy, and swashbuckling adventure, offering readers a thrilling ride filled with daring escapades, unique characters, and high-flying action. Jim Butcher‘s masterful storytelling and imaginative world-building create a captivating steampunk tale that will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next installment.
“Mechanical Failure” by Joe Zieja
In this humorous and satirical steampunk novel, readers are introduced to R. Wilson Rogers, a bumbling ex-space marine who finds himself thrust back into military service on an interstellar warship. As Rogers stumbles his way through absurd situations and navigates the eccentricities of his fellow crew members, he unwittingly becomes embroiled in a conspiracy that could have far-reaching consequences. “Mechanical Failure” is a hilarious and entertaining romp that combines steampunk aesthetics with science fiction and comedy. Joe Zieja‘s witty writing style and larger-than-life characters make this novel a delightful addition to the steampunk genre.
“The Iron Duke” by Meljean Brook
In a world where the Mongols have conquered Europe and the British Empire relies on steam technology, Mina Wentworth, the Iron Duke, rises to power as a formidable force in the Iron Seas. When a dead body is found on her doorstep, Mina becomes entangled in a conspiracy that threatens not only her position but the fragile peace of the realm. “The Iron Duke” is a captivating blend of steampunk, romance, and adventure, offering readers a thrilling journey through a richly imagined world of airships, mechanical wonders, and political intrigue. Meljean Brook‘s intricate storytelling and dynamic characters make this novel a standout in the genre.
“The Affinity Bridge” by George Mann
In a steampunk Victorian London, Sir Maurice Newbury, a special agent to the Queen, and Miss Veronica Hobbes, his resourceful assistant, investigate a series of bizarre crimes that point to a deadly plot threatening the city. With its blend of mystery, supernatural elements, and steampunk technology, “The Affinity Bridge” offers readers a thrilling and atmospheric adventure. George Mann‘s vivid prose and attention to detail transport readers to a meticulously crafted world filled with airships, clockwork devices, and strange occurrences. This novel is the first in a series featuring the dynamic duo of Newbury and Hobbes, providing a perfect entry point for those seeking a steampunk detective saga.
“The Bookman” by Lavie Tidhar
Enter an alternative Victorian England where literature holds immense power and secret societies wage a clandestine war. When his beloved is murdered, Orphan, a street urchin, becomes entangled in a conspiracy that involves famous authors, advanced technologies, and the enigmatic figure known as the Bookman. “The Bookman” is a captivating blend of steampunk, literary references, and fantastical elements. Lavie Tidhar‘s rich and evocative prose immerses readers in a world where books are weapons and the line between reality and fiction blurs. With its compelling characters and a plot that weaves history and literature together, this novel offers a unique and engrossing steampunk experience.
“The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter” by Rod Duncan
In an alternate England, where the Gas-Lit Empire reigns and women have limited rights, Elizabeth Barnabus ekes out a living as a private investigator disguised as her own brother. When a seemingly simple missing-person case spirals into a dangerous conspiracy, Elizabeth must navigate a treacherous landscape of political intrigue, steam-powered gadgets, and shifting loyalties. “The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter” is a gripping steampunk mystery that combines elements of historical fiction, adventure, and feminist themes. Rod Duncan‘s intricate world-building and complex characters make this novel a captivating read, filled with twists, suspense, and a strong-willed protagonist who defies societal norms.
“The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters” by G.W. Dahlquist
In a Victorian-inspired world, three strangers find themselves drawn into a sinister plot involving a secret society, mind-altering substances, and a dangerous quest for knowledge. “The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters” is a mesmerizing steampunk thriller that takes readers on a journey through a dark and mysterious world. G.W. Dahlquist‘s intricate storytelling and vivid descriptions create a haunting and atmospheric narrative filled with suspense, intrigue, and unforgettable characters. With its blend of steampunk aesthetics, psychological twists, and a dash of the surreal, this novel offers a unique reading experience that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
“The Girl with the Iron Touch” by Kady Cross
In this installment of the Steampunk Chronicles series, Kady Cross introduces readers to Finley Jayne, a young woman with dual personalities—one delicate and one deadly. As she becomes embroiled in a dangerous conspiracy that threatens the lives of her friends and the fate of London, Finley must confront her inner demons and harness her unique abilities. “The Girl with the Iron Touch” is a thrilling steampunk adventure that combines elements of romance, action, and supernatural abilities. Kady Cross‘s fast-paced storytelling and dynamic characters make this novel an engaging addition to the genre, offering readers an immersive journey into a world of clockwork marvels and dark secrets.
“The Half-Made World” by Felix Gilman
In a world where a timeless conflict rages between the Line, an industrial force driven by steam and machinery, and the Gun, a chaotic and supernatural force, two individuals from opposing sides find themselves entangled in a battle for control. “The Half-Made World” is a genre-bending blend of steampunk, fantasy, and western themes that delivers a richly imagined and morally complex narrative. Felix Gilman‘s vivid and evocative prose transports readers to a gritty and dangerous world where ideologies clash, personal loyalties are tested, and destinies are forged. This novel offers a unique and compelling reading experience, combining elements of adventure, philosophical inquiry, and a captivating exploration of the human condition.
Steampunk novels and short stories offer readers an escape into a world of Victorian splendor, steam-powered marvels, and futuristic adventures. With its captivating blend of history, science fiction, and fantasy, Steampunk continues to inspire both authors and readers alike. Whether you’re seeking tales of airships soaring through the skies or intricate clockwork contraptions, the genre offers a diverse range of stories to satisfy your imagination. So, embark on a journey through time and technology by exploring the wonders of Steampunk literature.