I just finished reading Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat. Leave it to a French Verne Fanatic to get Steampunk right. Instead of just gluing a bunch of random gears to a top hat and calling it Steampunk, Valtat incorporates the aesthetic and weird science of the sub-genre no one seems to know how to describe into the story in a hundred little details that bring the unique landscape and characters to life.
Mixing a bit of magic into the oddball shenanigans of the characters, we follow revolutionaries and lovers through a frozen landscape of New Venice and beyond, all in search of the true North Pole, which is more a numinous expression of true self than it is a place on any map. There are frozen patriarchs, the ghosts of famous explorers, Inuit politics, day dreams and Jazz music, weird contraptions and an arctic kangaroo. Something for everybody.
The language is beautiful and evocative, and form a non-English speaker, this is quite an accomplishment– Valtat writes English better than most native speakers, even a few writers I could mention. The story is fun and thoughtful. My only complaint is that I would like to see more of the world and learn a bit of its history but as this is the first in a series, I’m sure I’ll get my chance.