“And this, my dear boy…is Pother.”
Literally the only reason that I picked up Steam by Drew Ford and illustrated by the wonderful Duane Leslie and Eva de la Cruz was because it was promoted as Steampunk. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved that style. And to have a fun, adventuresome graphic novel filled with it? I was so excited to read this book. And from the start, I was truly eager to learn more about the amazing world pictured on the cover.
Steam is Kind of a Mess
I hate that I have to say this, but you’re really not going to read Steam without getting confused or lost somewhere within it. I honestly felt as though this was the sequel to some other book that I should have read in order to have the background information. That’s probably the worst part about it all. Steam, as far as I can tell, is a standalone. And you just do not get enough information from it whatsoever.
This kind of leaves you floundering throughout the whole thing. Areas that should have been explained a little better just weren’t. Character arcs we should have spent more time on were left out entirely. I felt like I was constantly playing catch up and it took a lot of my ability to enjoy the novel away.
I can say that the artwork, overall, is fantastic. There are, admittedly, numerous occasions in which characters are caricatured to the point that they look ridiculous or even outright creepy. Very few of the characters actually look realistic. In its own way, this did make it difficult to feel immersed in the story. There’s only so much exaggeration I can take when it comes to how all the characters are drawn.
However, the world contained some of the most beautiful drawings I’ve ever seen. If nothing else, you can hands down say that this story had exemplary settings. The gadgets that made up this steampunk world were portrayed excellently.
Looks Cool, But Pretty Unmemorable
In the end, I think it’s difficult to really pin this book down. As a graphic novel, it definitely has a lot of merits. But, I think that also played a role in how difficult it was, at times, to fully feel as though I was following the story. I think a lot of world-building and important characterization moments were skipped because the author thought the graphic format would account for it.
Well, it didn’t. This felt like a sequel. One in which I was missing a lot of pertinent information. And that’s not the way you want your standalone, or your first novel to feel. And as much as I liked the idea for everything involved here, I just didn’t like the book itself. The characters weren’t all that great since they existed as templates that weren’t fully fleshed out. The world needed more development. I needed more of a backstory.
I felt like I’d been thrown smack into the middle of an ongoing story with none of the prep work done to help me understand it. And while, sure, I can say that I was able to figure it all out that definitely hurt my reading experience. As a whole, this isn’t a very memorable or engaging story. It’s exciting, at times. But that’s really all I can say for it.