Lord Kelvin’s Machine by James P. Blaylock
James P. Blaylock returns to Victorian England in another steampunk adventure with scientist Langdon St. Ives and his nemesis, Dr. Ignacio Narbondo. Lord Kelvin’s Machine contains three related stories which each feature a fictional infernal device created by inventor Lord Kelvin. I listened to the excellent audio version which was produced by Audible Studios, is just over 8 hours long, and is narrated by Nigel Carrington.
In the prologue of Lord Kelvin’s Machine, Dr. Narbondo murders Langdon St. Ives’ beloved wife Alice which throws St. Ives into a funk. Part 1, titled “In the Days of the Comet” begins a year later. St. Ives has been depressed since Alice di... Read More
Lord Kelvin’s Machine by James P. Blaylock
Murder on the Orient Elite by Larry Correia
For fans who just can’t wait for the next installment in Larry Correia’s GRIMNOIR CHRONICLES, you can get a quick fix by reading Murder on the Orient Elite. In this short story (only 1 hour and 15 minutes on audio) which is set in an alternate 1937, not too long after the events of Warbound, Jake Sullivan is contacted by Dr. Wells to do an undercover job on Wells’ dirigible, The Orient Elite. Wells, the psychopathic (and maybe also paranoid) psychologist, suspects that one of his passengers is planning to blow up the luxury airship on its maiden voyage and he wants Jake to figure out who the saboteur is. When Jake comes aboard, he realizes the ship is full of his usual enemies — Russian, German, and Japanese agents. Jake must uncover the plot ... Read More
The Emerald City of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Emerald City of Oz is L. Frank Baum’s sixth OZ book. Here we find Dorothy Gale back at home in Kansas. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em are about to lose their farm and they despair of what will happen to their niece Dorothy since they can no longer support her. The three decide that Dorothy should go live in Oz with her friend Princess Ozma who has often tried to get Dorothy to move there. But sweet little Dorothy can’t leave Uncle Henry and Aunt Em living lives of hard labor back in Kansas, so she gets permission to bring them to Oz, too.
Thus, Dorothy gets to give her aunt and uncle a tour of Oz (oh no!) and introduce them to all her friends — Cowardly Lion, Hungry Tiger, Billina, Sawhorse, Wizard, Pumpkinhead, Scarecrow, Woggle Bug, etc, etc, etc. On her tour she also run... Read More
The Digging Leviathan by James P. Blaylock
The Digging Leviathan is the first book in James P. Blaylock’s LANGDON ST. IVES/NARBONDO series. I’ve been reading these out of order, which doesn’t seem to matter. The books have some overlapping characters, settings, and/or concepts, but each stands alone. The Digging Leviathan features two teenage boys, Jim Hastings and Giles Peach, who are living on the coast of Southern California during the mid-20th century. Each is a dreamer and each has his own “issues” involving his father.
Jim lives with his uncle Edward St. Ives (who, I’m assuming, is a direct descendant of Langdon St. Ives, the eccentric Victorian scientist who stars in several of the books in this series) because Jim’s mother is dead and his father is insane. (Or is he?) Most of the time Jim’s father lives in a mental hospital, but when he ma... Read More
Alector’s Choice by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Despite believing what Bill said about the “shampoo-rinse-repeat” nature of Modesitt’s COREAN CHRONICLES, I gave Alector’s Choice, the fourth book in the series, a try since it has just been released in audiobook format by Tantor Audio and they sent me a review copy.
If you’re interested in reading Alector’s Choice, you should know that you don’t need to read books 1-3 first. Alector’s Choice begins a trilogy that’s a prequel to the rest of the series. In fact, if you haven’t read the other books in the series, you are likely to enjoy this book a lot more than I did since my main complaint is that it’s too similar to the previous novels.
The story follows two protagonists. The first is Mykel... Read More
Equoid by Charles Stross
Equoid is a novella set in Charles Stross’ LAUNDRY FILES world. It isn’t necessary to have read any of the LAUNDRY FILES novels, but you’d probably get a little more out of Equoid if you first read at least the first two novels, The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue. This story takes place after the events of the fourth novel, The Apocalypse Codex, and before the events of the fifth novel, The Rhesus Chart.
Bob Howard is a computational demonologist who works for the Laundry, the secret British agency that helps keeps the world safe from the eldritch horrors that lurk in another dimension. When curious mathematicians and physicist... Read More
The Road to Oz by L. Frank Baum
OK. It’s obvious what’s going on here. As L. Frank Baum explained in the foreword to one of the OZ books (and I’ve seen such sentiments in some of his other forewords, too):
It's no use; no use at all. The children won't let me stop telling tales of the Land of Oz. I know lots of other stories, and I hope to tell them, some time or another; but just now my loving tyrants won't allow me. They cry: "Oz — Oz! more about Oz, Mr. Baum!" and what can I do but obey their commands?
I think it’s sweet that Baum wanted to satisfy his readers, but these stories are starting to feel like they were quickly and thoughtlessly thrown together just to satisfy those loving tyrants.
In The Road to Oz, Dorothy and Toto meet the Shaggy Man who carries a love magnet so that everyone... Read More
The Aylesford Skull by James P. Blaylock
James P. Blaylock is most famous for being a protégé of Philip K. Dick and, along with his friends K.W. Jeter and Tim Powers, developing the steampunk genre of fantasy fiction in the 1980s. Blaylock’s most popular steampunk stories take place in Victorian England and feature gentleman inventor Langdon St. Ives and his archnemesis Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, a hunch-backed necromancer. The Aylesford Skull is considered to be the seventh installment of THE NARBONDO SERIES, though each of the LANGDON ST. IVES novels can stand alone.
In Th... Read More
Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross
In the future of Charles Stross’ Saturn’s Children, humans have somehow managed to kill themselves off. But, before they did, they developed an array of artificial intelligence machines to serve them. Some were sent out to explore and settle the galaxy. The universe now contains all sorts of robots and cyborgs. They’ve set up a class-structured society with “aristo” robots owning those that humans had fitted with loyalty-inducing slave-chips. This strange new feudal society carries on with normal business, free from the oversight and lordship of humans.
Freya is one of these cyborgs. She was designed to be a “companion” (to put it nicely) for humans, so she is humanoid in appearance and exhibits most human emotions and motivations. She was spawned from a “mother” named Rhea ... Read More
Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale
Palace of Stone is a sequel to Shannon Hale’s excellent Newbery Honor-winning Middle Grade novel Princess Academy. You’ll definitely want to read Princess Academy first, and to avoid spoilers, you should read it before you read this review. So, if you haven’t read Princess Academy yet, go away and read it now. (Then come back, please.)
In Princess Academy, we met the poor hard-working uneducated families of Mount Eskel who survive by mining and carving linder, a valuable type of stone that they export to lowlanders. Their culture was changed when it was determined by lowlander priests that the next princess should come from Mount Eskel. To get the girls up to snuff, a “Princess Academy” ... Read More
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum
If you happen to know Dorothy Gale, let me advise you to stay away from her. The girl attracts natural disasters like she’s some sort of magnet. This time, it’s an earthquake. Dorothy and her cousin Zeb are traveling on a wagon in California when it strikes. Down they go into a big crack in the earth and keep falling until they land in a city made of glass buildings. There are several clues that they have entered a fairy realm: Zeb’s horse (Jim) and Dorothy’s kitten (Eureka) can suddenly talk, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz (who was also in California) shows up with nine tiny piglets in his pocket, and the inhabitants of the city turn out to be made of vegetable matter. Dorothy and her friends can’t get out of the earth the way they came, so they decide to try to walk to Oz where they know they’ll be welcome.
First they are nearly killed while trying to fight their way past the... Read More
Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Ozma of Oz is the third book in L. Frank Baum’s OZ series. We all know what happened in the first book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In the second book, The Marvelous Land of Oz, a boy named Tip accompanied several strange characters on a quest to help restore Princess Ozma to the throne of Oz. Dorothy, who was back in Kansas, didn’t appear in The Marvelous Land of Oz.
Ozma of Oz begins as Dorothy Gale (we didn’t know her last name until now) is with Uncle Henry on a ship heading to Australia. A storm blows up and washes Dorothy over the side. (It seems to me that Dorothy has an uncanny ability to attract deadly storms. Perhaps she should change her last name.) She manages to stay ... Read More
The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
The Gripping Hand (1993) is Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s sequel to their popular 1974 novel The Mote in God’s Eye, which you probably want to read first. This review will have a couple of spoilers for The Mote in God’s Eye.
Recall that by the year 3017 AD, humans had designed the Alderson Drive — an interstellar transporter which allowed them to jump out of our galaxy to colonize different star systems. Then they discovered the first alien species — the Moties — who were excellent engineers but did not know the science behind the Alderson Drive. The Moties must breed to survive and were quickly overpopulating their own star system. Because they represent a major threat to our species, the human space navy ha... Read More
The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross
The Rhesus Chart is the fifth and most recent novel in Charles Stross’ LAUNDRY FILES. Bob Howard has been moving up the ranks in the Laundry — not due to any particular motivation or ambition on his part, but just because he has managed, so far, to stay alive as he and his fellow agents battle the eldritch horrors who are trying to find their way into our universe so they can eat us.
While doing some data mining in his office one day, Bob happens to notice a small but statistically significant outbreak of an illness that looks like Mad Cow disease in an area of London. Curious, he begins to investigate by consulting a neurologist, looking at cadavers, and tracing the habits of the people who’ve died of the disease. Eventually this leads him to a small group of data analysts who work for a London bank. One of them accidentally progr... Read More
Vergil in Averno by Avram Davidson
Vergil in Averno is the second book in Avram Davidson’s trilogy about Vergil Magus. It was published in 1986, 20 years after its predecessor The Phoenix and the Mirror which told how Vergil (yes, that Vergil) created a magic mirror for Queen Cornelia. I enjoyed that book for its interesting period details and the appealing humor. You don’t need to read The Phoenix and the Mirror to understand Vergil in Averno. This story can stand alone.
In Vergil in Averno, Vergil travels to (surprise!) Averno, a region in Italy where volcanic activity has created a toxic lake and boiling water travels just below the surface of the earth. (Early Romans thought Averno was a gate to Hell and ... Read More