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Lord Kelvin's Machine (Langdon St. Ives) Paperback – March 12, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
Blaylock ( The Paper Grail ) returns to the Victorian setting of his award-winning novel Homunculus in this tale of obsessive grief, time travel, mad scientists and gentlemanly adventure. The first of the three parts finds amateur scientist Langdon St. Ives despondent after a rainy chase of his nemesis, the evil Dr. Narbondo, ends with the death of his lady love, Alice. But St. Ives turns his grief to determination as he strives to thwart Narbondo's scheme to shift the earth into a collision with a passing comet. In the second part, an array of colorful, eccentric villains (including a revived Narbondo) compete to use Lord Kelvin's electromagnetic machine in an elaborate (and unlikely) blackmailing plot. In the novel's final section, St. Ives gives in to his private sorrow, using the machine to travel back in time in an attempt to kill a younger Narbondo and thus save Alice's life. Blaylock provides plenty of action--perhaps too much--and his characters are, if not realistic, entertaining, but this novel is not among his best work. The three episodes never cohere, and the driving force behind the plot (St. Ives's grief) is explored in detail only in the concluding section. Though St. Ives's journey through time is very well handled, at once playful and thoughtful, the sum of these three parts is less than a whole.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
Three-part ``steampunk''--Victorian fantasy--outing for the author of the noteworthy Land of Dreams and The Paper Grail. In part one, scientist Langdon St. Ives, despondent after the recent murder of his wife Alice by the diabolical hunchback Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, struggles to prevent said Narbondo from causing Earth to collide with a passing comet; simultaneously he must sabotage Lord Kelvin's superpowerful electromagnetic machine that, if used to repel the comet, would produce still another disaster. Part two sees St. Ives attempting to recover Kelvin's machine from beneath the English Channel while battling a cast of bad guys intent on revivifying the supposedly dead Narbondo. In part three, St. Ives seizes Kelvin's machine, which turns out to be a time machine, and sets off to make significant alterations to history- -not least, the prevention of Alice's murder. A neat enough idea, but the tone is wrong from the start, as broad comedy-adventure (part one) veers into farcical parody (part two) before subsiding into straightforward melodrama (part three). Neither is the scenario--as if Victorian America had invaded 1930's England--particularly convincing. All in all: a thumping disappointment. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Lord Kelvin's Machine: A Tale of Langdon St. Ives is a steampunk novel that can be divided into four arcs: prologue (or the beginning), comet dangers, ship magnetism, and time travel. In the novel, our main protagonist, Langdon St. Ives, is a British professor in search of the main villain, a certain Ignacio Narbondo. St. Ives wants vengeance for the death of his wife, Alice. He is accompanied by his companions Bill Kraken, Jack Owlesby, and his trusty servant, Hasbro. Together the group chase after the "evil" Narbondo successfully ruining his schemes of cosmic extortion. Narbondo falls to an icy grave, but is kept alive by Leopold Higgins, an ichthyologist. A second scheme is hatched using Lord Kelvin's machine as a gigantic magnet to threaten British shipping. This too is foiled by St. Ives and company. The last arc finally brings in the time traveling aspect of the story. St. Ives salvages Lord Kelvin's machine for his own practical time machine. His main opponents now are the people of the Royal Academy under the leadership of Secretary Parsons who are intent on retaking the machine. St. Ives successfully completes the time machine and travels into the past to save Alice.
The story at first appears out of the order in the beginning chapters. However, the it settles back into a chronological pattern within the first part in the chapter titled "Dover." The main narrator for most of the story is Langdon St. Ives. However, both Bill Kraken and Jack Owlesby get their own chapters. Kraken is given a chapter titled "London." Owlesby narrates the entire second part of the story in first person.
Langdon St. Ives as I noted in my own headline should be renamed Langdon St. Angst for his own brooding and self deprecating personality. He blames himself for his failure to save lives, but at the same time seeks to take the high road by avoiding outright murder. Fortunately for him, the villains are more interested in murdering each other leaving his own hands clean.
This is what I imagined steampunk to be; real scientists from history working on impossible technology during the Victorian era with plenty of action and adventure. There really was a scientist named Lord Kelvin who developed the absolute temperature scale called the `Kelvin scale,' formulated the second law of thermodynamics, and worked to install telegraph cables under the Atlantic. Another real scientist mentioned the novel is Sir Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin. These aren't just science fiction stories they are also adventure stories. Professor St. Ives has a group of men, including his faithful valet Hasbro, who follow him as he tracks down the evil Narbondo and saves the day. I look forward to reading more books in this series.