Aurorarama (The Mysteries of New Venice Series #1)

Aurorarama (The Mysteries of New Venice Series #1)

by Jean-Christophe Valtat


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Introducing the Mysteries of New Venice steampunk trilogy with a first volume that “entrances and delights” (NPR)
In the defense of steampunk comes a literary adventure unlike anything you’ve read before. 1908, New Venice: An ominous black airship hovers in the sky, and the city is hunting for the author of a radical pamphlet calling for revolt. The lead suspect is Brentford Orsini, one of the city’s most prominent figures. As the net around him tightens, Orsini receives a mysterious message from a long-lost love that compels him to act.

Brilliant in its conception, masterful in its prose, thrilling in its plot twists, and laced with humor, suspense, and intelligence, Aurorarama marks the beginning of a great new series of books.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781612191317
Publisher: Melville House Publishing
Publication date: 05/01/2012
Series: Mysteries of New Venice Series , #1
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 904,463
Product dimensions: 5.56(w) x 8.04(h) x 1.16(d)

About the Author

Jean-Christophe Valtat was educated at the École Normale Supérieure and the Sorbonne. He is the author of three acclaimed books of literary fiction: Album, a collection of short stories, and the novels Exes and O3, the last of which was recently translated into English and published in the United States by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. Aurorarama is his first book written in English. Valtat also wrote and co-directed the movie Augustine. He lives in Paris.

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Aurorarama 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
RandyStafford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the year 1908, the city of New Venice is threatened by unrest. Hardly unique in a time when preachers of anarchy and committed revolutionaries roamed about the Western world. The forces of the status quo are particularly interested in who wrote a subversive tract called A Blast on the Barren Land, or The Standard of True Community Advanc'd, an accusation that this utopian community of the Arctic (seemingly around Greenland) has betrayed its principles. The genially sinister and nattily dressed secret police, the Gentlemen of the Night, think dissolute literature professor Gabriel d'Allier knows who wrote the book and pressure him into providing evidence it is his friend Brentford Orsini. The latter is highly placed in the Arctic Administration, manages the Greenhouse important to the city, and is also interested in Inuit-New Venice relationships.Gabriel and Brentford are the viewpoint characters, and we follow them to meetings with conspiracies of garbagemen, magicians who may just work real magic, anarchists and suffragettes, and try to discover the meaning of a message from Brentford's dead lover urging him towards a rendezvous at the North Pole. And, especially, we see their romances play out - Gabriel with a Stella, a wild, tattooed magician's assistant and Brentford with fiance Sybil.There are things to like in this book. Valtat provides lots of humor. It may not be of the laugh out loud variety, but it's there. The drugs, avante-garde musicians (a bit like anachronistically early progressive rock), legends, architecture, and wonderfully named places and government bureaus all amuse and kept me reading. In particular, I picked this book out because of its Arctic setting and steampunk tropes. And Valtat mostly delivers there with a melange of real and fake Arctic exploration and, besides just providing the obligatory airship, he comes up with some interesting bits of invented technology - enough that I think a steampunk fan who likes the subgenre for its alternate technology would probably like the book for that reason alone.Ultimately, though, these all added up to a less than satisfying experience, a literary trip that, oddly, got less interesting when we actually left New Venice to follow Gabriel and Brentford. For a science fiction fan, the story uneasily amalgmates the supernatural with alternate science. For a fan of utopian fiction, the values of New Venice are too sketchily drawn, its administration too vaguely drawn and disguised by Valtat's clever nomenclature, to be interesting. The bohemian artists and architecture are too quickly glimpsed, ephemeral visions as we head to the spiritual North Pole of the novel's end.And when the novel entered the realm of political revolution, I lost even more interest. Though, to be fair, I did like Valtat's anarchists who seemed more practical than many of their breed. (We even get echoes of the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution with Navy Cadets playing a role.) Our journey of exploration ends up with some mundane statements about the difference between revolt and governing justly, communal politics versus the exclusivity of romantic love.If you don't mind a trip to an unsatisfying destination and just want to gawk at some sights along the way, this is the book for you. Besides technophilic steampunk fans, the book also has some appeal to completists of the lost race novel.
cornerhouse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'd be the first to admit that it's entirely likely that I just don't get steampunk fiction (or steampunk anything, for that matter). And because I generally don't get it, I tend to shy away from books that are described as such.Valtat's Aurorarama is labeled as "steampunk" (even by the LC, which apparently has a "steampunk fiction" subcategory -- who knew?), but it's not the label that much interests me. It's whether he was successful in creating a fascinating alternative world in which to place this story of intrigue. My verdict? He's much more successful in creating the alternative world than he is in constructing a plausible story within that world. There were all too many times while I was reading this novel that I found myself purposely reading faster to get past the slow bits. And there were far too many times when I had to put it down and read something else because the story had stalled or simply didn't feel like it was hanging together.Originally, I'd given this 4 stars, but I've since downgraded it to 3 stars--mostly out of a sense of disappointment. It could have been a much better book. But, the story could not match the world in which it was placed, leaving me with little more than a desire to finish it and move on to something else.
reannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Aurorarama is an alternate universe tale set in New Venice, a city in Alaska. It has somewhat of a steampunk feel, though the timeline is not clear. Early twentieth century, apparently, though the technology is sometimes more advanced than ours was at that time, and the culture has music and drug use similar to our own time.The main characters are Brentford Orsini, who runs the Greenhouses for the city. He is troubled by the developing autarchy of the seven councilors who rule the city, and writes an anonymous book opposing them. His best friend is Gabriel, a professor at the university who gets into trouble with women and drugs.Orsini gets a mysterious message from his dead love, Helen, to meet her at the North Pole, and he has to decide whether to accept what could be a suicidal task. Things are going strangely in the city of frozen canals. A dark aeroship has appeared and stationed itself above the city but makes no contact. Anarchists are being anarchic.The book had its good elements, but wasn't, overall, my cup of tea. I wasn't fond of the characters, the setting, or the story. I don't think they were done badly, though, it just wasn't a book that interested me.
Laurenbdavis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had high hopes for this book since I love anything about the north, love steam-punk, and love anything having to do with mythology, especially when iced with metaphysics...but... although Valtat's prose is so rich it's practically gooey, and in spite of the fact his imagination is formidable, and regardless of his impressive research, the book just didn't hold my interest the way I wanted it to. In fact, I found myself skipping pages, which is never a good sign. There is a sort of pretension to the book, as though the author can't help but flex his intellectual muscle in every paragraph. I wanted him to stop trying to impress me so hard and get on with the bloody story. The book is a door-stopper, and it could have used an editor with a sharp pair of scissors. Valtat needs to learn to kill his darlings. Certainly the prose, as I said, is lush, and considering English is Valtat's second language, that's quite a feat. One wishes he's spent as much time developing characters whose complexity and humanity warranted all the adjectives. Then too, Valtat uses a good deal of Inuit mythology, and I will be interested to see how Inuit readers feel about his usage. For example, he has taken the sacred story of Sedna (Saana) and dropped it into a particularly intriguing section. For reasons too complicated to go into here, I happen to know a bit about this story and so the scene made sense to me, but I can't help but wonder, since Valtat uses sacred images without explanation, how anyone not acquainted with Inuit cosmology and religion will interpret it. I also admit I couldn't help but wonder if, in the sections through which I found myself dozing, whether the fault was one of my own inadequate education. I actually quite like challenging books, and read voraciously, but this was rather like being served dinner by an undeniably splendid chef, but one who seasons so heavily, with so MANY allusions to his own credentials that it sours what I'm quit sure would otherwise be a fabulous meal.For a FAR more enjoyable take on myth and the fantastic set in a northern clime, I recommend Michael Crummey's gloriously human and compassionate (and funny), GALORE.
8bitmore on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reasonably interesting take on current (2010/11) day climate of, supposed?, scarcity politics. Haunting images of the Arctic. Ultimately a tiny bit.. not quite unfolding.
kkisser on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Aurorarama is a steampunk revolution in the coldest reaches of Earth in a city called New Venice found in the Arctic circle. The city is the home of idealists, artists, military, and Inuit trying to live a harmonious life in a place that is mostly blanketed in darkness. The two protagonist, Brentford Orsini,a civil servant and Gabriel de¿Atelier a professor and romantic, become part of the prophecy for change in New Venice, which the government and the secret police, the Gentleman of the Night, are trying to prevent.The story evokes the sense of beauty and isolation of the ice, and the longing for an idealized home where art, exploration, and safety live in harmony with ancient culture of the Inuit. A lyrical book that has all the sense of the Victorians spiritualism, romance, and morality from the perspective of an adventurous duo.I recommend looking up the quotes included at the beginning of each chapter for a better perspective. Many you may know, but Jean-Christophe Valtat has found some obscure and very interesting quotes from Victorian writings of the time on explorations of the North Pole and Victorian philosophy. A highly original book that will appeal to those who read in and outside of the science fiction genre.
evangelista on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Aurorarama is perhaps what Jules Verne would write if woken from the dead and offered a dose of mushrooms." That review excerpt caught my attention. And the cover reminds me of His Dark Materials trilogy love. And the title strikes just the right playful note against the seriousness of the packaging and promised content. Steampunk? Or dreamy amalgam of a lot of disparate elements? Maybe more surrealism than Steampunk in a way but is it strictly surrealism if it garners a surreal quality from a drug like daze? This book reads like the first episode of a series (because it is), and although you may find yourself coursing through the work in an oddly disconnected way because of what has not been mentioned yet, it is a really language rich and pleasant ride.1908 New Venice, the "pearl of the Arctic," has a mysterious black airship floating in the sky and political tensions between the indigenous and the Subtle Army and the secret police, the Gentlemen of the Night, on the ground. Two middle aged friends, the respected Orsini and the vice-defined d'Allier alternate points of view from chapter to chapter as both revolt and personal redemption beckon. Neither man is quite prepared for what awaits him in this "place of ice palaces and pneumatic tubes, of beautifully ornate sled-gondolas and elegant Victorian garb, of long nights and short days and endless vistas of crystalline ice."And the other part that I loved about this one were the abundant allusions. Of particular interest to me were the mythic connections (especially Norse myth) and the whole Venus in Furs thing going on. The allusions alone command enough attention for a re-read. Definitely will read the next installment. Funny too but I feel as if I am traveling a similar path with Kraken right now. But not yet sure why. World building that is not world building as we have come to know it?
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