Welcome to an alternate Canada, where steam technology and the wonders and horrors of the mechanical age have reshaped the past into something both wholly familiar yet compellingly different. These fifteen supercharged all-new tales reimagine Canadian historical events, explore other Canadas, and gather inspiration from the northern landscape to make us wonder: what if history had gone a different way?
This short fiction anthology has excellent intentions: the representation of non-colonialist, multicultural steampunk content in Canadian historical context. In that, Parisien's anthology succeeds on many fronts: the writing is often excellent and always at least of good quality, the range of content appreciable, and the representation of underrepresented groups in the stories frequently well handled. But the anthology also suffers from unexamined tropes, problematic outsider vs. insider cultural failings, vignettes that needed expansion and revision, and even structural and pacing issues. The pieces that work best overcome these difficulties or work in spite of them. Karin Lowachee's "Gold Mountain" stands out as the book's most effective story, both for its exquisite prose and pacing and because it speaks without cultural failing. Rati Mehrotra's beautiful but underdeveloped vignette, "Komagata Maru," succeeds likewise. And though other stories in the book are enjoyable (Michal Wojcik's "Strange Things Done," Claire Humphrey's "Crew 255," and Charlotte Ashley's "La Clochemar"), much of the book is composed of white writers trying and failing to write insider narratives, or co-opting others' voices to tell their stories. The book's flaws are frustrating, especially given Parisien's excellent work as an editor elsewhere (The Starlit Wood, etc.), but it's still well worth reading for the stories that succeed.