Left Bank Books Logo

Collectively operated since 1973


Return to Staff Picks


Aurorarama (The Mysteries of New Venice, #1)

by: Jean-Christophe Valtat

Publisher: Melville House (2010)

$16.95

Staff Pick by comrade: FG

Aurorama is massively smart and funny entertainment. As an anarchist, I was somewhat perplexed by the layers of utopian thought and lines pulled straight out of other radical texts juxtaposed with the fantastical elements of the plot; the author seems to know his stuff, but remains elusive as to his own self-identification. While being sold as "steampunk," perhaps because of its fixation on the political aspects of turn-of-the-century themes (set in the arctic, a place that could and perhaps will be easily be shaped by ideas of manifest-destiny--also a small fixation of anarchists vis-a-vis "Desert") it struck me as more science fiction; Valtat himself refers to it as "teslapop," as most of the technology in the novel is inspired by the electrical madness of Nikolai Tesla. Despite the vapid female characters and plot points that are suspiciously cleanly resolved, I couldn't put this book down. It's still hard for me to discern whether he's selling anarchism to a crowd used to diluted fiction, or if he's selling dressed up fiction using anarchism. Either way, it was weird, imaginative, and constantly engaging. I can't wait for the rest of the series to come out.