How is Elizabeth Bear following up the best epic fantasy trilogy of the past decade? With a rip-roarin’ standalone Steampunk novel with an ass kicking heroine, of course. Not what you were expecting? Me neither, but Bear is full of surprises and one of the most versatile writers in SFF.

And, just look at that cover by Cynthia Sheppard! Cephalopods? Shotguns? Creamy Steampunk goodness? Checks all around.

The back cover copy is the perfect companion for the bold and beautiful cover:

Set in the late nineteenth century—in a city a lot like what we now call Seattle Underground—when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were reading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town.

Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, begging sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

Hard on the heels of that horrifying discovery comes a lawman who has been chasing this killer for months. Marshal Bass Reeves is closing in on his man, and he’s not about to reject any help he can get, even if it comes from girl who works in the Hôtel Mon Cheri.

Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the Old Steampunk West with a light touch in Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.

Karen Memory was one of those books that was a long time in the making,” Bear told Tor.com when they revealed the cover today. “I wrote her first words — ‘You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I’m gonna tell you anyway.’ — in September of 2009, and I wrote the final words in January of 2014. In between, I lived with Karen’s voice in my head, because she was full of stories, and she wanted to tell them to anyone who would listen. And soon I get to share those stories with readers, which is one of the great thrills of my writing career!”

“[Karen Memory] is as amazing as I knew it would be,” said Beth Meacham, Bear’s editor at Tor Books. “But the problem was, how to get the cover for it right? Because Karen deserved nothing but the very best, and there were too many tempting scenes to illustrate. But this, this is perfect. This is Karen Memery, practical, spunky, a little sexy and a whole lot dangerous. In her own way.”

Karen Memory will hit store shelves and eReaders in February 2015.

  • Paul Weimer November 20, 2014 at 3:09 am

    Yep, gorgeous cover that makes me want to read it all the more.

  • neth November 20, 2014 at 7:54 am

    I’m so judging this book by its cover and need to get my hands on a copy STAT! This one just jumped to the top of the I Need to Read This Book Now pile.

  • Aidan Moher November 20, 2014 at 8:00 am

    Yeah. I’ve had a copy of this for a few weeks, but it’s sat around without catching too much of my attention (despite Bear’s name on the spine), but upon seeing this cover, it’s jumped right up my “to read” pile. It’s funny, not many covers inspire me to read a book these days, not like it used to when I was younger, but this is on the rare exceptions.

  • Stefan (Far Beyond Reality) November 20, 2014 at 8:10 am

    Hi Aidan, after we put up the original post at Tor.com, Beth Meacham pointed out that that’s an old, incorrect version of the back cover copy. (For one, the novel is *not* set in Seattle, but rather in Rapid City, which includes elements of a number of American cities including Seattle.) The correct, updated version is up at Tor.com.

    (And – yes, READ IT! It’s an utterly wonderful novel. Cynthia Sheppard captured Karen’s personality perfectly.)

  • Stefan (Far Beyond Reality) November 20, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Hey look at that, the corrected version went up in under 20 minutes. Fast response times – that’s what it’s all about in today’s blogging world!

  • Aidan Moher November 20, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Thanks, Stefan. Updated.

    And, that’s not the first time someone’s told me I’m quick on the draw.

    Wait a second…?

  • Irene November 20, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Thanks, Aidan! I’m hoping to see more of Sheppard’s work around the books stores!

  • Aidan Moher November 20, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    As an avid Magic: The Gathering player, I’ve been familiar with Sheppard’s work for a while. She’s amazing, and I’m glad to see her breaking into book covers. As always, you’ve got a wonderful eye for talent, Irene.

  • April Daniels November 23, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    “Prostitute with a heart of gold”? Seriously? You know that’s a really pejorative trope against sex workers, right?

  • Aidan Moher November 23, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    @April — Apologies for any offence that my thoughtlessness caused. I’ve updated the post with a more appropriate and less insensitive descriptor.

  • April Daniels November 24, 2014 at 1:34 pm


  • Eliza_Mariah December 1, 2014 at 2:54 am

    I’m not a fan of Steampunk, but I’ll give this one a go since it’s Elizabeth Bear.