“The Women of Nell Gwynne’s” ~ by Kage Baker
A steam punk novella which won a 2009 Nebula award. It has a bit of a satirical twist, where the women of this “special organization” help with the fight against evil in their special and socially unaccepted way.
About: “The women of Nell Gwynne’s” is set in an alternative England where steam has a decidedly different technological aspect than the standard historical Victorian era model; this is definitely steam punk. The unique aspect of the story is the women. As high class call girls, each of these special women has been selected by the madam for their strength, feistiness and other special talents - all which help them in their fight against the darker aspects of their time. As you might imagine, their main way of ascertaining secret information is especially intriguing, and revolves around the high-standing men who possess it being in the awkward and vulnerable position of having “their pants around their ankles”.
Thoughts: I completely enjoyed this short novel and was immersed in it. A key to Kage Baker’s talents is that the novella is a page turner that took me on a trip into an alternative Victorian era - it included some fictional technological inventions which combined to create a story that anyone interested in steam punk should read. It was dryly funny too. I understand from my digging around for information on the author and the back story that she had a cutting wit and sense of humor; and it shows. I giggled a lot.
Although done tastefully it’s important to mention that since the story is about “ladies of the night” there are some interesting sexual involvements, so I consider parts of this story to be light erotica. Readers bothered by this kind of read should give the story a miss. But it is highly recommended for all steam punk fans and anyone interested in a fun read. It’s a 4.5 stars and darn near a 5 in my opinion. I will be reading a lot more by this author, which is heartbreaking since her books are numbered, considering her death prior to winning the Nebula for this book.
Multiple award winning Novella Winner: Nebula Award (2009); Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella (2010), and Locus Award for Best Novella (2010).
The novella is also included in the Nebula Awards Showcase 2011 collection which was published by Tor (cover links to my review) and is a book which I designated a rare 5 star.
“The Women of Nell Gwynne’s” is available alone too, since it was published in 2009 by Subterranean Press with the cover shown at the top of this review. Also included here is the UK version’s cover with a different title.
The other novellas in the running with “The Women of Nell Gwynne’s” for the Nebula are listed below:
- Arkfall ~ by Carolyn Ives Gilman
- Act One ~ by Nancy Kress
- Shambling Towards Hiroshima ~ by James Morrow
- Sublimation Angels ~ by Jason Sanford
- The God Engines ~ by John Scalzi
All are on my TBR list since novella’s are so much fun. They require much less of a commitment than a novel and these are the veritable “cream of the crop”!
Bio: Kage Baker was born in Hollywood CA, USA 1952. She died prior to the Nebula Award announcement for her story in 2010. During her life she spent 20 years researching the Elizabethan era as well as other historical periods. In addition to writing she was a graphic artist, mural painter, held several clerical positions, playwright, actor, director, teacher of Elizabethan English and stage manager, as well as an educational program assistant coordinator. A member of the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) you can find out more about her work from this website: http://www.kagebaker.com/
It’s the first review for the year. Thanks for reading!