Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: “The Women of Nell Gwynne’s” ~ by Kage Baker

the women of nell gymme's

“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”.

Scarlet Spies (UK cover)

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:

It’s the first review for the year. Thanks for reading!


ediFanoB said...

Wonderful review Shellie. I own the book bu did not read the story so far.

I loved THE EMPRESS OF MARS set in the world of her COMPANY series.

Since then the COMPANY series is on my list of series which I would like to read.

Amber at The Musings of ALMYBNENR said...

Thanks for the awesome review and the new book to add to my TBR. It's very bittersweet that the author passed away before receiving her award. Did she write more Nell Gwynne books? I'm on my phone so it's hard to see the other picture that says Scarlet something. I'm guessing the one you read was the first one?

Aarti said...

I've got a couple of books by Kage Baker but haven't read them yet. I am excited to read her Company series- I think I'll really enjoy it!

Unknown said...

Edi -
Thank you! It was such a fun easy read. I think you will like it and it's only 120 pages.

Can't wait to see if you liked it as much as the others in her series. I have The Company's first book on my list. I will have to check your reviews for those you have read and perhaps read one of those first.

Now to find the time.

aLmYbNeNr -
Thank you! I think you will like this one and yes it is very sad.

They are both the same book only different book covers one from UK (the red one) and the purple is the US version.

I am thinking they will be quite similar but if your from the US you should read the US copy since they do change stuff - yep believe it or not. Mostly colloquialism and such.

Aarti -
I have seen some great reviews for her Company series. She has a really fun and easy to read style or writing and the best yet - a feminist bent.

Yep I think we are both going to enjoy that series.

Amber at The Musings of ALMYBNENR said...

Thanks Shellie! Yeah I know...I think that stinks. I think books written by British authors should be the same when they are published here....I want to read the slang and everything as originally intended.

But I will stick with the U.S. version *sigh* lol

Unknown said...

aLmYbNeNr -
Lol...I do think most US readers would be lost in the UK versions. But it is fun to give it a try.

But I can say personally that I almost always like the UK covers and titles better. Perhaps I am partial??? lol...

Amber at The Musings of ALMYBNENR said...

I don't think all of us would. Readers and book bloggers are smart people. :)

Unknown said...

aLmYbNeNr -
Yes we are smart, but even spending loads of time in the UK I have been lost with the differences in language... am still and believe it or not UK English and US English are very different... hence the different versions. Who would have thunk... lol...

Cheers my dear!

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