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Lord Kelvin's Machine [Mass Market Paperback]

James P. Blaylock
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

August 1992
Determined to avert the doom of his beloved wife, scientist and detective Langdon St. Ives sees his only hope for doing so in Lord Kelvin's time machine, but the diabolical Dr. Ignacio Narbondo has other plans for the invention. Reprint. AB.

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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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5.0 out of 5 stars An astutely told science fiction adventure April 18 2003
Format:Hardcover
Deftly written by James P. Blaylock (a winner of the World Fantasy Award and the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award), Lord Kelvin's Machine is a fantastic steampunk saga set in Victorian London. Our intrepid hero, Langdon St. Ives, is devastated by murder and surrounded by mayhem in the midst of an uproar over (and battles to possess) a wondrous machine with the power to travel through Time itself. An astutely told science fiction adventure laced through and through with humanity, reflection, high escapades, drama, and coming to grips with the terrible specter of death, Lord Kelvin's Machine is enthusiastically recommended reading for all dedicated science fiction enthusiasts.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astutely told science fiction adventure April 18 2003
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Deftly written by James P. Blaylock (a winner of the World Fantasy Award and the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award), Lord Kelvin's Machine is a fantastic steampunk saga set in Victorian London. Our intrepid hero, Langdon St. Ives, is devastated by murder and surrounded by mayhem in the midst of an uproar over (and battles to possess) a wondrous machine with the power to travel through Time itself. An astutely told science fiction adventure laced through and through with humanity, reflection, high escapades, drama, and coming to grips with the terrible specter of death, Lord Kelvin's Machine is enthusiastically recommended reading for all dedicated science fiction enthusiasts.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The roots of steampunk... in a wild and woolly adventure June 15 2014
By W. D. Gagliani - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you’re a fan of the steampunk subgenre of SF/F and you haven't read Homunculus or Lord Kelvin's Machine, then why not remedy this dire situation immediately with new Titan Books editions such as this one? James Blaylock is one of the originators of steampunk (look it up), along with Tim Powers and K.W. Jeter (who coined the term in the mid-80s). You should read these works because they form, in part, a fair portion of steampunk’s source material. Homunculus comes first, and you'll find Blaylock's The Digging Leviathan also fitting your agenda. Add Powers's The Anubis Gates, and Jeter's Morlock Night and Infernal Devices, and you'll be in at the ground floor, so to speak. A portion of Lord Kelvin’s Machine was first published in Asimov’s in the mid-80s, but this expanded version appeared in the 90s. I’ve just reread it as part of my campaign to revisit works that influenced my own writing in some way.

Loosely defined, steampunk is Victorian science fiction, the sort of thing Verne and Wells wrote, but with a modern spin and occasionally anachronistic elements. Generally steampunk at its roots did not involve fantasy elements (i.e. magic) although the whole might itself be labeled fantasy. Some of us who were there at the beginning, reading most of these original seminal works in their first printings when there was no handy label to hang on them, marvel at how the genre has spread, and how more expansive fantasy elements have become part of the mix.

In Lord Kelvin's Machine, which is actually a series of connected narratives, Blaylock again involves the protagonists of Homunculus: the scientist-adventurer Langdon St. Ives and his group of comrades, including his “gentleman’s gentleman” Hasbro, Jack Owlesby, and Bill Kraken, once again facing his foes: the buffoonish Professor Parsons of the stodgy Royal Academy of Sciences, and the abominable Doctor Ignacio Narbondo (who puts me in mind of the original TV steampunk supervillain, Doctor Miguelito Loveless on the famed Wild Wild West series, which is now amusingly retro-defined as steampunk, and perhaps obviously so). St. Ives seems a sort of cross between the hyperlogical, single-minded Sherlock Holmes and Jules Verne’s pragmatic adventurer, Phileas Fogg, albeit much more romantic in nature than both.

After the Homunculus adventure, at the start of LKM a terrible tragedy befalls St. Ives and he sinks into despondency and a lust for revenge against the villainous Narbondo, who is up to several insane schemes, including diverting the earth’s orbit so as to collide with a close-call asteroid, as well as other super-villainy, such as a return from the dead (or near-dead) state resulting from the asteroid affair. Most of the rest of the book involves St. Ives’s interest in the titular machine, a powerful electromagnet created by his neighbor, the scientist Lord Kelvin for the rival Royal Academy of Sciences. Now stolen, it’s responsible for the sinking of several ships. Plus the electromagnet may or may not also be a time machine, and a desperate St. Ives has set his sights on it, hoping to employ it to alter the tragic, villainous event that is the source of his despondence. But can he salvage the machine from the bottom of the sea before his rivals? Will it allow him to travel in time? Will he be able to face his demons and not lose his soul? Will he become a murderer?

LKM may not have the breakneck pace of “modern” steampunk, but Blaylock’s whimsical action set pieces helped lay the groundwork for what would come later. The elements are in place: an odious supervillain or three and assorted deranged minions, a band of stalwart comrades, a dirigible and bathyscaph both, a time-travel machine in the Wells vein, and missing notebooks sought for a suppressed resurrection process. Separate accounts are interconnected and a particularly entertaining one is narrated by the loyal but sometime-cowardly Jack Owlesby, while the others follow various adventures that all lead to Langdon St. Ives’s efforts to thwart and bring to justice – or possibly execute – the murderous Narbondo (aka Dr. Frost), while reversing the greatest sadness of his life. Of course there are complications, as St. Ives learns when he checks in on his nemesis during his troubled childhood. Faced with options such as premeditated murder, St. Ives must determine whether he is a better man than one who would choose such a course.

Lord Kelvin’s Machine predictably explores some of the usual time travel anomalies and paradoxes, but does so on its own terms, and convincingly. While often narratively whimsical, especially the portions told by Jack, by the climax a certain melancholy, sentimental tone creeps in and lends a new dimension by sprinkling a dash of between-the-lines philosophy before the wholly satisfying conclusion. If you want to see steampunk in its nascent state, Blaylock’s work is essential. This new Titan edition looks great on your shelf, and don’t forget to add Homunculus and The Aylesford Skull.

--W.D. Gagliani, author of “The Great Belzoni and the Gait of Anubis”
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining jaunt Nov. 10 2001
By Michael Battaglia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Probably the best thing one can say about this book is that after this he got loads better. This novel shows Blaylock attempting to write a alternate historical fantasy (I think, though it's never clearly said) with a knotted twisting plot while at the same time having a little fun with it. Most of it comes off like he was reading his good friend Tim Power's novels and thought, "Hey I could do that!" but this kind of thing definitely isn't where his strengths are. The blurbs on the back and front tout it as a time travelling novel and it sort of is one of those but you have to get through two other parts with the same characters . . . the main character is a detective/scientist named St. Ives who is trying to stop a diabolical professor, especially after the man killed the love of his life. The title machine comes in early for a totally different reason (and it's never explained how they decide to use it to travel in time) and the science must be parody but it's played dead serious which sort of deflates the purpose. So they're entertaining but don't seem to move any kind of plot forward . . . it's also hard to get a handle on St Ives, all you ever hear is how brilliant he is but you never really see him dedude anything or work hard at it, he just knows everything and Blaylock seems to operate on the idea that if you repeat something often enough people will believe you. The third part, featuring mostly only St Ives nearly redeems the novel . . . after nearly beating it into you that he's at his wits end and is totally depressed and numb, things finally start happening and lots of interesting twists come in . . . unfortunately the ultimate resolution of the book makes you wonder why he just didn't do it earlier . . . frankly this feels like a short story padded out for whatever reason. Maybe Blaylock liked the characters. But honestly if you just took the prologue and the third part you would have a fine novella or the like. After this I think he abandoned the historical fantasy stuff and leaned more towards merging modern fantasy with the viewpoint of ordinary people and how it affects them . . . that he did brilliantly and those are the books you should seek out. (...)
4.0 out of 5 stars Steampunk Novel with Plenty if Action and Adventure May 7 2013
By C. Raso - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is divided into three separate stories with one theme running through all of them; Lord Kelvin's machine. In the first story, Dr. Ignacio Narbondo is trying to shift the orbit of the Earth into the path of a passing comet. The Royal Academy wants to use Lord Kelvin's machine to change the magnitude of the Earth's poles to repel the comet but Professor Langdon St. Ives believes that using the device will harm, and not help, the planet. The second tale starts with a mysterious explosion at the Royal Academy where Lord Kelvin's machine is being stored. A little while later there are reports of steel hulled ships going down off Dover. Then a creepy mother and son show up searching for an elixir that prolongs life. They think that the people who stole the apparatus also have the potion along with the cryogenically frozen Narbondo. In the third plot St. Ives is in possession of Lord Kelvin's apparatus and has turned it into a time traveling device.

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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Lord Kelvin's Machine is a *5* star read! Sept. 6 2014
By Robert Pylant - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Another wonderful Langdon St. Ives book (he has written a number of books about Langdon St. Ives
and this is one of them. *5* star Read
I just love all of the Landon St. Ives books!
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