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Luminous Chaos (The Mysteries of New Venice Series #2)

Luminous Chaos (The Mysteries of New Venice Series #2)

5.0 1
by Jean-Christophe Valtat

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Book two in The Mysteries of New Venice, the steampunk adventure series The Guardian called a "magnificent achievement"

It's 1907 in the icily beautiful New Venice, and the hero of the city's liberation, Brentford Orsini, has been deposed by his arch-rival -- who immediately assigns Brentford and his friends on a dangerous diplomatic


Book two in The Mysteries of New Venice, the steampunk adventure series The Guardian called a "magnificent achievement"

It's 1907 in the icily beautiful New Venice, and the hero of the city's liberation, Brentford Orsini, has been deposed by his arch-rival -- who immediately assigns Brentford and his friends on a dangerous diplomatic mission to Paris.

So, Brentford recruits his old friend and louche counterpart, Gabriel d'Allier, underground chanteuse and suffragette Lillian Lake, and the mysterious Blankbate--former Foreign Legionnaire and leader of the Scavengers, the city's garbage collecting cult--and others, for the mission.

But their mode of transportation--the untested "transaerian psychomotive"--proves faulty and they find themselves transported back in time to Paris 1895 ... before New Venice even existed. What's more, it's a Paris experiencing an unprecedented and crushingly harsh winter.

They soon find themselves involved with some of the city's seediest, most fascinating inhabitants. But between attending soirees at Mallarmé's house, drinking absinthe with Proust, trying to wrestle secrets out of mesmerists, and making fun of the newly-constructed Eiffel Tower, they also find that Paris is a city full of intrigue, suspicion, and danger.

For example, are the anarchists they encounter who are plotting to bomb the still-under construction Sacre Coeur church also the future founders of New Venice? And why are they trying to kill them?

And, as Luminous Chaos turns into another lush adventure told in glorious prose rich in historical allusion, there's the biggest question of them all: How will they ever get home?

ebook ISBN: 978-1-61219-142-3

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As this sequel to Aurorarama opens, revolutionary leader Brentford Orsini is rejected by a fickle electorate before being assigned a diplomatic post in Paris, far from his home in arctic New Venice. Not content with sending Orsini across the world, his rival mandates the use of the psychomotive, an unreliable and often lethal occult transportation device. Orsini and his companions are cast back in time from 1907 to 1895, before the founding of New Venice. Trapped in a Paris gripped by unprecedented cold and overrun with murderous xenophobes determined to purify their city at any cost, Orsini and his fellows will do well to survive, let along find their way back to their lost home. The dreamlike logic seduces the reader, leading from whimsy to bleak nightmares and back. Imbued with melancholy humor and an appreciation for the fantastic potential of the imagined past, Valtat's voice is strong and engaging, a promise of even better works to come. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Aurorama:

Selected for Io9's 'Ten recent science fiction books that make great gifts'

"He is funny, intelligent, lyrically precise, and frequently self-aware." —JAMES WOOD, The New Yorker

"Aurorarama is a magnificent achievement, balancing serious intent with arch humour. It's also beautifully stylish, replete with inventive steampunk iconography and fantastical characters in a stunning polar setting." —The Guardian

"Aurorarama mesmerizes." —Bookforum

"The novel glides on silver skates from the surreal to the absurd to the languorously decadent ... New Venice is irresistible." —LAURA MILLER, Salon

"Aurorarama is perhaps what Jules Verne would write if woken from the dead and offered a dose of mushrooms. An enjoyable amalgam of thriller, fantasy, and polar adventure, topped off with a sprinkling of anarchist intrigue." —The National

"Marvelous, perfect, and perfectly marvelous!... I can hardly wait for its sequels." —PAUL DI FILIPPO, The Barnes and Noble Review

"The most noteworthy contribution to steampunk in almost two decades." —Pornokitsch

"Combining Arctic adventure with Victorian fantasy, this page-turner is as sparkling and colorful as the northern lights." —The San Francisco Chronicle

"Aurorarama entrances and delights. You could spend years picking apart the sly references and the particular myths, poems, novels and songs that inspired Valtat, or you can simply enjoy it for the experience." —JESSA CRISPIN, NPR

"Aurorarama tells a tale of political intrigue (secret police! Eskimos! Prisoner-esque hovering airship!) with some truly lyrical prose." —io9

"A terrific storyteller, Valtat mixes humor and poetry, romance and politics into a surprisingly thoughtful page-turner about social revolution." —MATTHEW JAKUBOWSKI, Paste Magazine

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-11-03
The second mind-bending installment of The Mysteries of New Venice. Valtat's (Aurorarama, 2010, etc.) second entry in his series beggars description; it can loosely be classified as steampunk due to its Victorian-era setting and fascination with fanciful technology, but its literary ambition, dazzling stylistic panache and richly drawn characters elevate it beyond the bounds of genre fiction. The action concerns the efforts of Brentford Orsini, former regent of the polar utopia New Venice, his louche confidant Gabriel d'Allier and a small band of colorful associates who return to their beloved home after a mysterious diplomatic mission goes awry and strands the group in 1895 Paris, dislocated in time, years before the founding of their mysterious city. Paris proves most inhospitable, ravaged by apocalyptic winter weather and beset by political unrest, scheming occultists and dangerous gangs of killers attired alternately as ravens and wolves. Valtat complicates the story deliciously, limning (in prose that is by turns lyrical, arch and earthily witty) a complex society built on secret alliances and technological marvels that give the characters endless opportunities to discourse on art, science and mysticism while engaging in all manner of classic adventure-story intrigue and action. Characters who include a dyspeptic disembodied head, a willful Eskimo mechanic, a half-mechanical ex-military man, and a guillotine-toting, wheelchair-bound refuse baron are the order of the day, but Valtat's intellectual excitement and clear affection for his creations prevent the proceedings from ever devolving into merely clever conceits or sci-fi silliness. The novel demands close attention and real work from the reader; there is an elusive quality to Valtat's worldbuilding, a sense of much left unexplained just beneath the surface of his beguiling tale. The luminous chaos of the title refers to the amorphous bodies of light that can sometimes be perceived when one's eyes are shut tightly, suggestions of shapes that, with some imagination and concentration, can be forced to cohere into recognizable objects. Not a bad metaphor for the experience of entering Valtat's allusive, evanescent world. A sui generis contraption, rhapsodic and strange; a breathless adventure for bent intellectuals.

Product Details

Melville House Publishing
Publication date:
Mysteries of New Venice Series , #2
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Sales rank:
File size:
7 MB

Meet the Author

JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VALTAT was educated at the École Normale Supérieure And the Sorbonne. He is the author of 2010's steampunk favourite Aurorarama, to which Luminous Chaos is the sequel. He has also written three acclaimed books of literary fiction: Album, a collection of short stories, and the novels Exes and 03, the last of which was translated into English and published by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.

MAHENDRA SINGH is an illustrator and longstanding Lewis Carroll fan. He is a member of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, and an editor for their journal, the Knight Letter. For Melville House, he produced an illustrated version of Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark.

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Luminous Chaos 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most Steampunk literature is more akin to the old penny dreadful genre; rapidly produced popular entertainment, superficially and carelessly written, and stuffed with stereotyped tropes. Luminous Chaos, and it's predecessor Aurorarama, are of a much higher order of being.