So I’m reading a fabulous book by an author I’ve discussed on this blog before, Gail Carriger. This one is the conclusion of her Finishing School series, Manners and Mutiny. The cover shows a young lady in a Victorian gown holding a crossbow, up against a yellow wallpaper of grappling hooks. That alone should make it very easy to recommend. Trying to explain the plot to someone asking the old “Whatcha reading, random stranger?” though, gets weird.
“Well, you see, there’s this school that can float in the sky because it’s attached to these balloons, and its a finishing school for girls, but actually its training them to become assassins, finishing people off, a finishing school get it? The pun? Right, and also there are these mad scientists, and bandits that call themselves Picklemen, and also werewolves and vampires and ghosts are all real, and there’s international intrigue and it’s all really funny and steampunk of course. I, wait, where are you going?”
Yeah, they usually look at me with weary eyes and start backing away at this point, silently deciding this “reading thing” is for people with mushier heads than their own. Manners and Mutiny, like all of Carriger’s books, is wonderful yet difficult to explain in a few words, especially to people unfamiliar with the steampunk genre. Saying the words “werewolves and vampires” in conjunction with young adult literature makes some people nervous. Those people have not read enough Gail Carriger.
Plenty more books besides Manners and Mutiny are hard to explain so quickly, and therefore difficult to recommend. I’m going to use Manners and Mutiny here as a case study, a way to show you how any book can be spun anyway into a recommendation to intrigue anyone. That’s the way you’ve got to do it. Know the audience you’re approaching, and make sure to mention what I know will hook them. Like so:
A Total Stranger:
This book, why yes I’d definitely recommend it. The author’s got a great sense of humor, and its a really original story. You see, this girl is enrolled in a finishing school that actually trains spies to finish off enemies of the British empire. Lots of intrigue, cool fight scenes, some romance. If you’re familiar with steampunk, it’s a very solid contribution to that genre
A Sci-fi and Fantasy Fan
Yeah, it’s a great steampunk read. She’s got a wicked wit, and wow does she know how to build a crazy detailed universe, really looking into how all this crazy stuff effects the budding modern world. There’s loads of great action too. These girls know how to wield bladed fans, and all those fancy steampunk classics. The main character has a little mechanical robot dog she carries around disguised as a purse. Need I say more?
Someone Sick of YA Vampires
This is the furthest thing from Twilight though, I can tell you that. These aren’t sad sappy romance figures with fangs and fur. It’s all handled very tongue in cheek, and more than anything they add to the sort of satire created about class and societal structure in England during the Victorian period, in between all the tea parties and spy stuff, of course.
Some of my Fancy English Major Chums
Yes, I know it sounds strange, but I’d compare Carriger’s insightful knowledge of the period’s societal mores and brilliant sense of humor with none other than the likes of P.G. Wodehouse, and Jane Austen also, for sure, because with that similar sort of witty breakdown of British society being served with a healthy but always well played taste of romance. It’s some of the best Victorian writing out there, I assure you.
A Friend with Similar Tastes to Mine
Dude, reeeeeeeaaaaaad this stuff, like now. It’s frickin’ amazing and funny and fast. I just need someone else to geek out with over this, please. I swear if you don’t I’m gonna cry. It’s got the coolest hot air balloon chase scenes and kick ass steampunk ladies smooching werewolves I’ve ever seen. Do it!
And there you have it, the many ways a master bibliophile can recommend just one brilliant book to many different people, and more likely than not get a positive response. You are welcome. Now, some one go read Manners and Mutiny before I cry. Do it!