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The Aylesford Skull (Tale of Langdon St. Ives) Paperback – January 15, 2013
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"A singular American fabulist." - William Gibson, author of The Difference Engine
"Blaylock is a magician!" - Michael Swanwick
"Blaylock's prose is so rich it literally sings!" - Charles de Lint
"Blaylock is better than anyone else at showing us the magic that secretly animates our world..." - Tim Powers, author of On Stranger Tides
"While many recent novels have picked up the steampunk banner, this one fully delivers, offering action, farce, tender relationships, and prose full of genuine Victorian cadence and flavor." - Publishers Weekly [on The Affair of the Chalk Cliffs]
"St. Ives has to be one of the most fleshed out Victorian characters ever written, and I’m sincerely hoping that Blaylock isn’t finished with this scientist adventurer. The Aylesford Skull can easily stand alone without any knowledge of Blaylock’s previous steampunk stories, but you’ll want to hunt down additional St. Ives tales, I’m for certain." – Wired.com
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Top Customer Reviews
St. Ives is described on the jacket as "brilliant but eccentric," though in practice he comes off as Sherlock Holmes without the flaws: his brilliance is the same MacGyver-type encyclopedic knowledge of whatever's needed in the current situation. We don't see too much of his "eccentricity," aside from his taste for ADVENTURE! and a fondness for gadgetry. All in all, he's a bland protagonist who's good for moving the plot forward but isn't too terribly interesting otherwise.
His archnemesis, the infamous Doctor Ignatio Narbondo, suffers from the same problem. His name is the most interesting thing about him, though to be fair it is an excellent name. Dr. Narbondo's modus operandi is the same throughout the book: bribe someone, then betray and kill them. Apparently none of London's criminal underground have heard about the Dr. Narbondo Retirement Package, though, because this trick keeps working over and over again. Come to think of it, how would they have heard of it? It's not like Narbondo has any ex-employees. A job for Narbondo is a job for life.
The book suffers from these shallow characterizations, which is a shame because the plot is rip-roaring. Within the first fifty pages we have a pirate attack, an attempted poisoning, a grave robbing, a murder, a bombing, a sewer chase, and the appearance of a ghost. Yes, a ghost. Though "steampunk" is usually considered a subgenre of science fiction, Blaylock weaves several supernatural elements into his plot, chiefly the titular skull.Read more ›
I was first intrigued by the description, and the fact that it was a steampunk novel (I like steampunk). The book started out strong, with action almost from the first page. I liked the writing style, and I liked most of the characters that were introduced.
The book is a good adventure story, and aside from the adventure of it, there's also ghosts and necromancy, which is right up my alley, and I liked the way the supernatural elements of the story were weaved into the plot. I also liked that we got different perspectives from the different characters.
However, I felt that I was missing some backstory behind some of the characters, specifically between St. Ives and Narbondo. I understand that they are nemeses, and I know that without that aspect of their relationship in place there would be no plot (there would be no point in the kidnapping if there wasn't the drive for revenge on Narbondo's part), but the reason WHY they were nemeses was never really explained. It was touched on, and hinted at, but I didn't feel as though I got a really good explanation or history and that bothered me. I don't think it's a crucial aspect of it, and you don't really need it to enjoy the story, but I just kind of wished that I knew more about them.
While there were a lot of good scenes (and some scenes and lines that actually made me laugh-mostly involving St. Ives's friend Tubby, who was actually one of my favorite characters) I also felt that it dragged in places. I actually felt that quite a few scenes with St. Ives were the draggiest bits (except towards the end), and I enjoyed the scenes with Tubby and his comrades and Finn Conrad much more than the ones with St.Read more ›
From the back cover: It is the summer of 1883 and Professor Langdon St. Ives - brilliant but eccentric scientist and explorer - is at home in Aylesford with his family. However, a few miles to the north a steam launch has been taken by pirates above Egypt Bay; the crew murdered and pitched overboard.
In Aylesford itself a grave is opened and possibly robbed of the skull. The suspected grave robber, the infamous Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, is an old nemesis of Langdon St. Ives.
When Dr. Narbondo returns to kidnap his four-year-old son Eddie and then vanishes into the night, St. Ives and his factotum Hasbro race to London in pursuit...
If you like science fiction then this book is for you. I have to admit I do not know much about this genre "Steampunk" however I do know and enjoy Jules Verne stories and Mr. Blaylock has captured quite a bit of what Mr. Verne used to put in his stories. What I am reminded of is "Master of the World" by Mr. Verne with his airship because Langdon St. Ives has an airship that he uses as we use a car. "The Aylesford Skull" is my first Langdon St. Ives thriller but I guarantee you this will not be my last. I like this character a lot and he kinda has a Sherlock Holmes atmosphere about him. Mr. Blaylock has given us a rip-rousing adventure yarn that will grab your attention and keep you flipping pages as fast as you can read them. A partial list of ingredients within "The Aylesford Skull" are a pirate attack, grave robbing, murder, a bombing, a chase in the sewers and an airship over London.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A witty, zany, fun read - full of adventure.
The Victorian gentleman explorer and inventor, Langdon St. Ives, is back. Read more
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.
James P. Blaylock is most famous for being a protégé of Philip K. Dick and, along with his friends K.W. Read more
Review based on an ARC, supplied by the publisher.
I broke one of my rules for this one. I generally hate to start a series anywhere but book one. Read more
Blaylock's best book in years, and the best of the new Langdon St Ives novels to date. He's changed his style in this novel, and it works really well. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Just Me
A fun fast read set in England with great sensibility to the Victorian era. A tale of necromancey, mystery and suspense. Read morePublished on November 29, 2013 by Kate
James Blaylock has long been my favorite conjuror of a curious blend of action, adventure and spiritualism. Read morePublished on October 20, 2013 by Charles T. Riley
The first in the series. I love the time period. A good read. Reminded me of the Adventures of Jules Verne television series that ran on the Sci-Fi Channel a few years ago.Published on July 21, 2013 by Dale Malisiak
Blaylock is amazing! Love this tale and was engaged from page 1. Looking forward to next book without a doubt.Published on June 18, 2013 by K.C.