The Steam Man of the Prairies by Edward S. Ellis

The Steam Man of the Prairies Book Cover

The Steam Man of the Prairies
Edward S. Ellis
Literary Fiction , Sci Fi & Fantasy
Dover Publications
20 Jul 2016


One of the earliest examples of steampunk literature, this 1868 story was actually written during the Victorian era and was among the first American science-fiction novels. In fact, the tale features the very first literary instance of a mechanical man, published long before the term "robot" was coined. Extremely popular and much imitated in its day, The Steam Man of the Prairies recounts a teenage inventor's road test of his automaton, in which he conducts a party of gold prospectors across Indian territory.
This book marked the beginning of a genre that came to be known as edisonades — dime novels centered on a young genius and his invention that captivated boys of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Educator and author Edward S. Ellis wrote more than 100 such tales, under his own name and more than a dozen others. In addition to appealing to boys' fascination with engineering and technology, edisonades offered plenty of action and adventure in untamed parts of the world. As Kirkus Reviews noted, "Ellis' works serve as a good window into the attitudes of the time and provide some context for how the future was viewed as well as how much the world was changing."

‘The Steam Man of the Prairies’ is considered one of the first steampunk, young-adult and Edisonado books and just for that is deserves a place in history. First published in 1882 it does show that time-period; it expresses views which these days are not considered to be political correct. Ellis was ahead of his time though, just remember that it was written 35 years before the Wright Brothers historical flight.

Also known as ‘The Huge Hunter’ this book has historical value and that is about it. The story is a typical adventure western, not very well written and has neither a very interesting and challenging story to tell. It’s one of the first dime novels and the story reflects that. Never-the-less it is, when put in historical context, an OK.


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