Riding the Mainspring is a collection of short stories from Andrew Knighton. I’ve read and reviewed a collection from him before, and really liked it.
Riding the Mainspring is very similar to the other collection – very short stories generally, neatly structured, a couple of links between some of the stories but nothing massive. I’m not going to rehash all of the same ground, but instead focus on the differences between the two.
The most obvious difference is that this set of stories are all steampunk, not fantasy. To avoid becoming repetitive though, they aren’t all the same steampunk.
All too often, steampunk means “Victorian London with cogwheels” and that can get quite dull. I’ve nothing against such localised Victoriana (I recommend Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell’s Barnaby Grimes series if that’s what you want), but an entire genre pinned to a single point in space and time is rather limited.
These stories are varied – the setting ranges from the Wild West to a volcano-ridden Europe to Italian sewers. It’s all steampunk, but it’s varied and original within the genre.
The stories aren’t quite as polished as the ones in By Sword, Stave, and Stylus – there are a couple that could have done with a little more elaboration, a bit more explanation of the underlying concepts and resolution. Still though, Knighton’s strength is his structure, so some stories not wrapping up as well as his best isn’t particularly damning – they’re a little weaker, but not bad at all.
My favourite stories were the two dealing with the Epiphany Club, a group of investigators of the outlandish and unusual. There’s quite a fast-paced pulpy feel to them, with automatons and magic elixirs. I’d read a novel set in that world, but there isn’t one. The author appears to have a couple of collections that deal just with the club though, so I will look them up.
This is going to be a very short post, because it’s a very short book and I seem to be writing more compact reviews as time goes on. Plus, having reviewed a collection of his short stories before on here, and the quality remaining roughly the same, there’s not much to say that isn’t just repeating myself.
In summation then, I find that I really like this author. He only writes short stories at the moment, but they’re good short stories, with neat plotting, a nice turn of phrase, and very few duds. This collection is a bit shorter and less polished than his fantasy one, but still well worth reading.