PHILIP SMITH & JOSEPH A. MCCULLOUGH
'Steampunk Soldiers: Uniforms And Weapons From The Age Of Steam'
As someone related to living history and historical re-enactment enthusiasts Osprey Publishing's illustrated books covering the various uniforms of different military eras have been a common sight for a long time. The illustrations are always detailed and as accurate as information and primary sources allow, and with accompanying text to give further depth they are a valuable go-to guide for anyone wanting to put together a look for historical events, or just for the stitch-counting anoraks of the world. Their appeal as a range of books is pretty niche, however they
The new title, 'Steampunk Soldiers: Uniforms And Weapons From The Age Of Steam' takes a sharp turn into anachronistic waters to add a little fantasy to their otherwise factual range. The titles spells it out quite clearly what the content is. Steampunk uniforms given the Osprey treatment with a little bit of statistics and alternative history added to keep it in line with their other publications.
The book is centred around the manufactured back-story of British art student Miles Vandercroft, and the illustrations he made as he travelled the world between 1887 and 1895 to document the rise of steam power after the discovery of a new element “Hephaestium” and its subsequent effect on modern warfare. Which is a pretty loose and mildly amusing set-up that doesn't really put too much bearing on the end result.
Broken down country-by-country the book looks at the uniforms, and equipment of various units and battalions that existed in the steampunk age. Real empires and nations undergo a subtle blending of fact and fiction to add weight to the re-imagined history that would actually be the perfect foundation for an actual novel series.
The book's biggest selling points however are the beautiful and often gritty illustrations by Mark Stacey. They are as detailed as any other uniform guide in the Osprey range and by blending actual expectations of uniforms of the time and adding a steampunk twist that is practical rather than the usual cogs for the sake of cogs look that has taken over they compliment the realism the written accompaniment strives for.
It is a great book, written with authority and illustrated with great care. It presents itself like any other uniform guide, but is a little more fun for the hell of it. Fans of steampunk, alternate history, cosplay, and live action role players will undoubtedly find this not only appealing but very useful. But as with similar books of this type, the appeal will not be great beyond that... even the historical accuracy police will probably not find anything here to grab them.
But at the end of the day it is a fun, parody of sorts with some great artwork, even if it is only for a niche audience.