This is the second volume I have read edited by Joyce Chng who shows a talent, along with Jaymee Goh, for selecting quality work and writers.
The Sea is Ours – Tales of Steampunk South East Asia quite directly presents itself as Steampunk. I want to say though, that it’s a bit more than that. It’s quite easy to dismiss Steampunk in general as a sub-genre that’s been overworked.
From very early on in my reading though, it was apparent that The Sea is Ours, had greater depth. Here’s what I wrote via a Goodreads update nearly halfway through the reading:
An intriguing selection that is reminiscent of Alternative Alamat in some ways. This *is* steampunk, but where that might cause potential readers to roll eyes and think "not another clockwork collection", The Sea is Ours is much more South East Asian alternative history and is all the better for it. The steampunk is subtle in most cases and where it isn't it’s original.
Collections like the The Sea is Ours is what I think of when talking about diversity in genre. Each of the stories contained brought a new angle or a fresh perspective on some old tropes.
But ultimately what excited me was the stories and characters of South East Asia. In and age long past half my history major was on Ancient South East Asian history, so for me The Sea is Ours brings back memories and adds additional threads to the tapestry of my experience.
Steampunk can feel “bolted” on a times, a cliché, but what I found with each of these stories was a much subtler integration into both story and culture. In some stories the technology arrives from outside the narrative’s culture and it’s adapted, in others it forms an integral part.
There’s also a good balance of the mythic and fantastical, Alessa Hinlo’s, The Last Aswang, and Timothy Dimacali’s On The Consequence of Sound, immediately spring to mind. Each author brings something fresh to this work though and for a collection that has its fair mention of airships and automatons, The Sea is Ours delivers variety in the type of story as well.
This is a fresh and original collection that reworks Steampunk in interesting ways while showcasing talented authors who present us with the reworked and reimagined stories of their own cultures and traditions.
Alter your perspective.
This is a review copy offered by the publisher.
The Sea is Ours is available in Australia through Booktopia from November 1st