I was looking at a flyer from Chapters bookstore and saw that this book had just came out. I had seen and loved the website when I first got online. Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett created a great story/site detailing the history of the steampunk inspired ‘Boilerplate – History’s Mechanical Marvel’. By doctoring actual historical photos they showed how influential and ubiquitous this robot was to history.(Though they never refer to him as a robot since that term was not in use when Boilerplate existed) He appeared to help Teddy Roosevelt fight his wars, he helped revolutionary Pancho Villa and he was on expeditions to the South Pole. A full rich life for anyone, especially a steam powered robot.
The book has the same creativity of the website it was born from. They authors leave nothing out that could possibly had existed (toys, statues, posters, postcards, advertising, cartoons, movies) if this mechanical man actually was created. Truly this project was a labor of love. The index itself is three pages and the attention to detail is amazing.
The book is 168 pages long and is the size of a school textbook. Each page is beautifully illustrated with Victorian inspired posters, black and white photographs, maps, scientific drawings and technical schematics. I spent the afternoon just lost in this imaginary world that didn’t exist but should have. This is the genre of steampunk done right.
If you didn’t know this was all made up, you would be forgiven for planning your vacation around a visit to the museums housing Boilerplate’s remains while getting your picture taken with the statue of Boilerplate and Teddy Roosevelt. The history of both are inseparable according to the alternate universe this book creates.
What I really want to see now if for someone to take this book and produce a CGI animated feature or a live action movie that documents the adventures of Boilerplate. The concept is so strong that it couldn’t help but be a winner.
If, like me, you love steampunk, Victorian Times or books about alternate histories then I am sure you will love this.
From the forward:
“A lovely foreword sets Boilerplate up as “the world’s first robot soldier,” created by Professor Archibald Campion in 1893 to prevent “the deaths of men in the conflicts of nations.” Since then, Boilerplate has “charged into combat alongside such notables as Teddy Roosevelt and Lawrence of Arabia.” Not only that, he’s traveled to the South Pole, “saved Pancho Villa’s life,” made silent movies, and “hobnobbed with the likes of Mark Twain and Tesla.” The book purports to tell the story of Boilerplate as “one of history’s great enigmas, a technological breakthrough that languished in obscurity,” until now.”