Publication Date: May 6, 2015
Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude by Madeleine Holly-Rosing is a seven-story prequel to the Boston Metaphysical Steampunk comic book. The anthology includes stories by Madeleine Holly-Rosing and line art by Emily Hu.
I was given a copy of this anthology by the author in exchange for my review.
The stories of Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude are set in a Victorianesque, alternate history. Clockwork machinery plays a prominent role, as does the class system of that era. Rosing adheres to the very specific constraints of the genre while preserving the unique beauty inherent in the Steampunk concept. There is a kinship with the work of H.G. Wells in Rosing’s stories. What Prelude does for readers is build interest in the comic books that follow.
In a story titled “The Clockwork Man,” the ruling structure seems post-apocalyptic with the ruling class “Houses” at war with each other. A neutral house suffers a great tragedy and the supposition is that it’s at the hands of another house. The feel of setting is gritty but sophisticated. Medicine is advanced and used by those in power. Machiavellian regimes use people as pawns. Rosing presents a homegrown terrorist to readers but a sympathetic one. In the few pages allotted to the story, she gives us a character who is fully rounded from broken to the contemplation of a terrible act, one he might have never considered had he not been placed in an untenable situation. The previous paragraph is not a spoiler for the story. It is unique, it is special and it is one that you will not want to miss.
Rosing’s writing style is clean and complete. She is perhaps the perfect short story author as she’s able to condense an idea and fully realize her story and plot in just a few pages. In “The Devil Within,” Andrew has a skill that a local constable, the only one who knows about it, exploits to maintain a perfect case record. In the course of the story, we learn the organization of the society, the dangers of the street and what money and affluence buy. Rosing wrote a steampunk ghost story that could both translate visually and easily become a modern classic. It is a flawless read.
In general, Rosing’s style falls into an expert category; her grammar and editing are exceptionally clean and the use of language perfection. The stories all have the feel of having been written at different times by different people. In fact, four of the short stories were previously published in trade/genre magazines while two have never been published. While having no way of knowing this for sure, my guess would be that there is a wealth of work and development that took place between each while each story is equally well written and owns its strength. As a history lover and a fan of science fiction, I’ve always been fascinated by the steampunk genre and to see it done so well wakes that appetite to seek out further steampunk reads. Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude is a compilation designed to fill out and enhance the comic books and I will be reading those comic books. The line drawings by Hu work as wonderful companions to the stories.
Even if you roll your eyes at comic books, give Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude a shot. The stories are well written and show a talent not to be missed.
Read an excerpt and pick up Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude: A Seven Story Collection by Madeleine Holly-Rosing today on