The Sea Is Ours: Tales from Steampunk Southeast Asia
Edited by Jaymee Goh & Joyce Chng
Cover Artist: Shing Yin
Review by Katie Carmien
Rosarium Publishing Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781495607561
Date: 01 November 2015 List Price $15.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The SEA is Ours, edited by Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng, collects steampunk stories set in Southeast Asia (yes, the title is a pun, and it's delightful). While often similar in setting--the Philippines are a popular choice--the stories run the gamut in theme, plot, and character, from a young girl who discovers the terrible secret behind the material that makes airships fly to a club that fights with mechanical spiders. It's fresh and original, a direct refutation of the idea that steampunk is just Victorian London with airships.
Goh and Chng have chosen an excellent selection of stories. The anthology keeps a good balance between tragic and hopeful, serious and lighthearted. There were several particular standouts.
Alessa Hinlo's "The Last Aswang" is a deft tale of anti-colonial resistance led by the titular vampire-like women who can halve their bodies at will--a reframing of the mythology to make them defenders of the Philippines. Henlo's prose is simple, elegant, and clean, and her characters are sharply drawn for such a short medium.Unfortunately, not all the stories were that good--but the ones that disappointed did so not because they were bad, but simply because they were overshadowed by the shine of their compatriots. With twelve stories to choose from, it's not as though readers will leave disappointed.
Ultimately, what we have in this anthology is the future of steampunk. Much like the rut high fantasy fell into with endless emulations of Tolkien, steampunk is skewing hard towards a sort of 1800s-England mush that has nothing "punk" about it. Not only is this an outstanding collection of stories, it's the most steampunk thing I've read in ages.