Within the magical gears of Lord Kelvin’s incredible machine lies the secret of time. The deadly Dr. Ignacio Narbondo would murder to possess it and scientist and explorer Professor Langdon St. Ives would do anything to use it. For the doctor it means mastery of the world and for the professor it means saving his beloved wife from death. A daring race against time begins…
Greetings to ill and sun-dried,
Today our own Alanna Quinn brings us a review of steampunk pioneer James P. Blaylock’s novel Lord Kelvin’s Machine. Enjoy!
Signed in human blood,
Sean Lee Levin
I am pleased to have a new (to me) genre of reading material to pick up, I wondered what authors were doing in the science fiction realm that could breathe new life into vintage territory Jules Verne and others have mapped into posterity. My favorite devices of this genre are the technology, properly described processes and machinery that can create a vivid narrative that suspends disbelief, keeping a story from becoming a period potboiler/melodrama. In addition to mechanics time-travel, early cryogenics and “controlled vulcanology” or causing volcanoes to activate made for interesting reading.
James B. Blaylock’s Lord Kelvin’s Machine was first published in 1992, not long after his previous novel Homunculus (which will be reviewed next.) Curious as to the moniker “Steampunk Legend” following his name I did a search through Wikipedia and found that in 1987, author K.W. Jeter originated or used “steam-punks” in a submission letter to Locus magazine, naming Homunculus and Tim Powers’ works under the term: it is an honest and legitimate tag.
The themes in Lord Kelvin’s Machine are classic: love, revenge, ambition, and a life’s work. Connecting these elements is Lord Kelvin’s time traveler, a machine that allows scientist/explorer Langdon St. Ives to jump through time in order to change the future, in addition to discovering things about himself that return to him his humanity, rather than his default setting as a to-the-bone scientist. The story goes through three major parts, with the final goosing up the action after the substantial build up of character and motives, notably of St. Ives and the obsessions that plague him. I enjoyed the density of the development; it engaged me visually with the story and allowed me to have more empathy even for the villains. With his manservant Hasbro and partners Jack Owlesby and Bill Kraken, St. Ives pursues his nemesis Dr. Narbondo and endeavors to prevent the doctor and his confederates from attempting to destroy the world through seismic manipulations, among other criminal pursuits. In the vernacular, a ripping yarn.
Final Thoughts:This book would be enjoyed greatly by fans of science fiction and those interested in the steampunk genre with more of an emphasis on science. I enjoyed the story immensely and am pleased to discover how far back the steampunk genre’s origins went. It is very good that Titan Books has reprinted and re-released Blaylock’s titles. He is worthy of rediscovery. I give this most enjoyable book four and a half out of five tentacles.
Alanna Quinn – Reviewer/Columnist