I’m all infatuated with yet another author, my friends, so I must warn you that you’ll be reading much more about Elizabeth Bear here in coming weeks.
New Amsterdam is an anthology of connected stories twined around two main characters. “The Great Detective” is vampire Sebastien de Ulloa. Lady Abigail Irene Garrett is a forensic sorceror, Detective Crown Investigator in His Majesty’s Service in the colony of New Amsterdam. At the beginning of the 20th century, North America is still a patchwork of European colonies, with all the attendant political intrigue and military tension.
Bear’s love of the Victorian period is obvious, and the steampunk touches are a delight. There are zeppelins, so I expect that Sam will probably read it. We even get a small appearance from Nikolai Tesla, which is nearly guaranteed to delight.
I found Abigail Irene refreshing, an independent, 50-ish professional who speaks her own mind and fulfills her oaths as fiercely as any paladin. Her flaws make her all the more real. Sebastien is a bit harder, perhaps because I’ve read too many vampire stories. He isn’t perfect, but he’s too close to it for my tastes. I never really “felt” him as I did Abigail Irene.
These are not bright and shiny stories. There are shades of grey present, and the end isn’t a fully happy one. It is, however, True in that sense that some things fit in a tale whether you wanted them there or not. We don’t always get what we want, but Bear has definitely given us plenty of what we need.
P.S. If anyone reading has access to the story “Almost True,” which was published in a chapbook that accompanied the limited edition of this book, I would give a pretty to be able to read it! The library systems to which I have access don’t seem to have it.