Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Lazarus Machine --- review

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): An alternate 1895... a world where Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace perfected the Difference engine. Where steam and tesla-powered computers are everywhere. Where automatons powered by human souls venture out into the sprawling London streets. Where the Ministry, a secretive government agency, seeks to control everything in the name of the Queen.

It is in this claustrophobic, paranoid city that seventeen-year-old Sebastian Tweed and his conman father struggle to eke out a living.

But all is not well...

A murderous, masked gang has moved into London, spreading terror through the criminal ranks as they take over the underworld. as the gang carves up more and more of the city, a single name comes to be uttered in fearful whispers.

Professor Moriarty.

When Tweed’s father is kidnapped by Moriarty, he is forced to team up with information broker Octavia Nightingale to track him down. But he soon realizes that his father’s disappearance is just a tiny piece of a political conspiracy that could destroy the British Empire and plunge the world into a horrific war.

And here's what I thought:  I liked how creative the author was with combining elements of the Sherlock Holmes character with an alternate version of 1895, while keeping some things that were real to London in 1895.    There are things that existed in 1895, like the interest in spiritualism, put together with re-imagined things, like Tesla's ideas and theories, so that there's a realistic feel to the story.   When one of the characters pulls out a "Tesla gun," I could completely imagine how cool that would be.   I also liked how creepy some of the things in the book were, like the masked gang that's terrorizing the city (um, gas masks?  super-creepy!!).  

I also liked that the book made me think.  There's a dark feel to the story, and the author brings some elements into the plot that are a little disquieting, like having human souls in automatons.   I don't want to reveal any spoilers here, so it's a bit tricky to really talk about the book.  But, needless to say, the author packs a lot of story into this book, along with some thought-provoking things, as well.

And there was something else about this book that made me think; if I didn't have some familiarity with London in this time period, and Sherlock Holmes, and who Tesla was, would I still have enjoyed the book as much?  What I mean is, if I were a reader who had no idea who Nicola Tesla was, would there still be as much fun in reading about some of his inventions in this story?   If I had no familiarity with Sherlock Holmes as a character, would the book resonate as much?   There seems to be some assumption that the character of Moriarty means something to the reader (along with Tesla, for example) .... but what if the reader doesn't know who that is?    I'm not sure if it would really matter to a reader, but it was something I thought about.

First sentences:  Tonight, seventeen-year-old Sebastian Tweed was going to be the voice of a fifty-year-old woman.  More specifically, he was going to be the voice of a Mrs. Henrietta Shaw -- missing and presumed dead for over a year now.


Annette Mills said...

I think I would enjoy this one. I do think that re-tellings or books that rely on prior literary knowledge can "miss" if you don't have that knowledge. Great thoughts.

Jenni Elyse said...

This sounds like a fun book to read. I may have to add it to my TBR list.

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