Karen Memory

Karen Memory

Book - 2015
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"You ain't gonna like what I have to tell you, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I'm one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It's French, so Beatrice tells me."

Set in the late 19th century--when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable's high-quality bordello. Through Karen's eyes we get to know the other girls in the house--a resourceful group--and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, beggin sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone's mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn't bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap--a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the old west with a light touch in Karen's own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.

Publisher: New York : Tor, 2015.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780765375247
Characteristics: 350 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

Steampunk Western that turns stereotypes on their heads, as Westworld does.

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Jul 06, 2018

A great book. On the face of it a Western Frontier/Steampunk with magical creatures during the gold rush might sound like an awkward background compared to the more usual Victorian England/Steampunk however this novel is entirely character driven and the characters are great.

Most of the characters are prostitutes with the protagonist and the book's namesake working in a (reasonably) high class brothel for a female Madame. There is a serial killer preying on prostitutes in the town, a villainous pimp with political aspirations, Russian pirates preying on gold transports a la Jules Verne, and a relentless black deputy federal marshal with a native American assistant trying to avoid a lynching while pursuing a murderer. The characters all have well developed personalities and understandable motives.

The book is also great because of the way it takes the background and shows the details of life that follows. This is an experienced writer producing a well thought out book.

JCLHebahA May 07, 2018

Protagonist Karen Memery comes to instant life from the very first line of this first-person steampunk narrative of derring-do starring characters who don't often get leading roles in historical fiction--young women working in the sex trade, immigrants, and even a black US Marshal, many of whom were inspired by real-life counterparts.

Feb 03, 2017

I gave up after a mere three chapters. Like another reviewer, I did not like the style of speech/narration used. It felt much more "frontier" than "fanatasy."

cmlibrary_ecrites May 14, 2016

I really wanted to like this book! It seems like it would be everything I want in a book, steampunky-19thcentury-American West with a strong female protagonist. That has my name written all over it but it just didn't work for me! I was very put off by the narrators manner of speech and I think that was the main issue. She uses a very distinctive accent but it just doesn't feel authentic to me, I never quite got the flow of it and would find myself rereading portions because the prose was so jarring and the word choice/order so unexpected. There are also several points where the action grinds to a halt so the narrator/main character can have a flashback or moment of introspection and all it did was kill the momentum of the plot. In theory this is a great book, in execution it just doesn't work.

sarahfelkar Apr 18, 2016

Set in an steam-punk west coast city during the late 19th century, Bear’s new novel features Karen Memery, a “soiled dove” who works at a high-end bordello, falls in love and into an adventure. This book is delightful and fast-paced, with a vivid and diverse characters and a fascinating setting.


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