BOOK REVIEW
Trolley
By Grig Larson
Soylent Publications

The cover to Grig Larson's 2011 book Trolley.

The cover to Grig Larson's 2011 book Trolley.

Even with eleven years of staffing fandom conventions under my belt, I have to confess that I’m not a big fan of steampunk. I like it on the most casual of introductory levels. I get why other people like it. There is absolutely no reason behind my slight indifference to this massive subgenre (really, I feel like we can probably give steampunk its own section at this point). It’s just one of those things that hasn’t grabbed me.

Then I get around to reading something like Grig Larson’s witty, inventive novel Trolley. Then I begin to think that maybe, I’m missing out on something really cool. If Larson’s steampunk fantasy is any indication of what this genre has to offer, then apparently, I’m missing out on a lot.

Trolley is very clearly the product of steampunk and fantasy. Larson knows as much about these things as much as just about anyone. Yet Trolley, in which a young woman named Heather clashes with the traditions of her world, specifically the one that forbids women from working with the machines that define, protect, and dictate her universe, is not a derivative work. I know enough about both steampunk and fantasy to remember that these are crowded arenas. Standing out from the throngs of old and recent releases is hard enough. Cracking open a truly original work, one in which millions of winning, compelling details wash over you, is rapidly becoming impossible. Larson succeeds so consistently in taking us through Heather’s unpredictable, often surreal journey into the deepest, darkest chapters of her society’s history, he may as well invent a perpetual motion machine next.

Honestly, when you write something this good, a book that deserves a considerably larger audience, compared to the one it has acquired since its release in 2011, where else can you go? Grig Larson has been a writer for a long time. His essays and similar pieces are as engaging as his stories. Trolley is one of his most impressive achievements as a writer. It sets out to tell an elaborate, complex mystery that celebrates and expands on such subjects as steampunk, feminism, and fantasy. It is a world champion on all three of those fronts. Larson creates a world that you are not going to want to leave. He fills it with vibrant detail and striking, remarkable characters. Everything amounts to a work that deserves every ounce of your attention. This is a good place to discover one of the great unrecognized voices of genre fiction.