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Homunculus (The Narbondo Series #2)

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  453 ratings  ·  46 reviews
In 1870s London, a city of contradictions and improbabilities, a dead man pilots an airship and living men are willing to risk all to steal a carp. Here, a night of bangers and ale at the local pub can result in an eternity at the Blood Pudding with the rest of the reanimated dead.
Paperback, 248 pages
Published July 1st 2000 by Babbage Press (first published 1986)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,830)
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Jun 11, 2014 Eric rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hardcore steampunk fans
It was my turn to pick for book club, and wanting to pick something different, I thought of this steampunk classic that I had already loaded onto my Kindle but hadn't yet read. It was short at around 250 pages, it was available for $2.79 on the Kindle, and it had won a Phillip K. Dick award for distinguished science fiction. So why then, out of seven people, did only two of us, myself included, manage to finish it?

Well for one, it had a hell of an in medias res opening. I mean the story really s
Kat  Hooper
3.5 stars

ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

"Does the night seem uncommonly full of dead men and severed heads to you?"

Langdon St. Ives is a man of science and a member of the Royal Society. With the help of his dependable and discreet manservant, St. Ives prefers to spend his time secretly building a spaceship in his countryside silo. But currently he’s in London to help his friend Jack Owlesby recover a wooden box containing the huge emerald Jack’s father left him for an inheritance. Thin
The plot takes place in a strange magical steampunky Old London Town. The streets are walked by preachers and zombies and zombie preachers. The skies are ridden by a skeleton pirate in a gondola under an airship blessed by a (nearly) perpetual motion device. There are alarms and excursions to the countyside where a moon rocket launch goes a little arwy. A strange small man with a lot of power is hidden in a box somewhere, so is an emerald, so is an aeration device for a moon rocket. Who has whic ...more
Sep 08, 2008 Neb rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of Victorian fantastical fiction, Steampunk fans
Shelves: own
I'm a huge fan of James Blaylock, so my reviews of his work are going to be very biased. "Homunculus" is a dizzy romp through a fictional late 19th century London populated by daffy gentleman Natural Philosophers, grizzled but upstanding inventors and adventurers, wicked and perverted mad-scientists, and the tout-hearted and unflappable women who support them (the good guys, not the creeps). The characters are pretty archetypal and typical of a story of this genre as, say, written by H. Rider Ha ...more
Bizarre & I loved it.

*note to self. Copy from A. (different cover and edition) scan later.
Cécile C.
Fair warning: this book has one of the steepest in media res opening I ever got the chance to read. Meaning, I think I understood next to nothing for the first thirty pages or so, and it only started to slowly come together after a few chapters (since I tried to re-read the beginning after I had finished, I'll say that the problem did not only lay in my limited capacity to focus: the opening really tosses a huge number of minute details about events and people and things that the readers cn't po ...more
I found myself losing interest in the plot and its resolution too often to be able to say I loved this book. There were too many characters to keep straight, not all of whom were particularly fleshed out, and too many competing plot lines. With that said, the universe Blaylock created for the book was imaginative and delightful. From gentleman scientist societies to mad doctors reanimating corpses, lever-operated spacecraft to skeleton-manned dirigibles, this book lived in a steampunk wonderland ...more
This book had everything that intrigued me: multiple parties trying to find a mysterious airship, puzzle boxes containing weird artifacts and even the living dead. Unfortunately this book delivered on none of the promise. The characters heroes were hard to differentiate from one another, the villains were too numerous with shallow motives, and the central airship and it's mysterious passenger touchdown at the very end of the story barely long enough for a cup if tea. While the concept was good, ...more
Hugely entertaining romp, mixing aliens, fantasy and Victoriana to dizzying effect.
James P. Baylock's novel featuring the inventor/adventurer Langdon St. Ives, has all the usual ingredients...airships, bad guys, good guys, evil scientist and of course zombies, necessary for a steampunk inspired tale.

This novel reminded me of a Monty Python episode. Just the whole story seemed so madcap and zany!
Huge carp, blood pudding eating zombies, a hunchback, reanimation of the dead and of course the comical scene of three different groups trying to steal the same box.

The story is not de
The first book I read by Blaylock was All The Bells on Earth .
All The Bells On Earth

That book immediately won me over. It was an exquisite example of what Dark Fiction (or Urban Fantasy, or the new Weird, or whatever you call the genre) can do. Unfortunately, since that book I just haven't found another Blaylock book as good.

This book wasn't bad, and I guess I judged it two ways.

If I judged it on its own, I probably would have given it a 2. It starts slow, I didn't really find myself enjoying
Corpses are animated in 1870s London by a hunchbacked fiend. A man sees himself as a new messiah. A blimp piloted by a skeleton stays aloft for years. A space ship is invented, and possibly a perpetual motion machine. A tiny man said to be from another world is kept in a small box, the harnessing of his considerable powers a tug-of-war in a deadly-fun game between armchair adventurers/inventors and baddies and their weird science.

Yes, it's more James P. Blaylock fun. As usual, Blaylock, whose mo
Wee Werewolf
This is the second of Blaylock's 'adventures of Langdon St Ives' books I've read. The first being the Ayeslford Skull. I enjoyed the former slightly more, but this has all the things that made that one enjoyable, and so was quite enjoyable itself. If you haven't read any of the series, they're set in victorian(?) england with a sort of fantasy/steampunk sensibility. A bit like Alan Moore's league of extraordinary gentlemen.

Anyway its basically a fun and goofy adventure story involving a villain
Monique Snyman
Homunculus by James P. Blaylock is a part of the “A Tale of Langdon St. Ives” series. Now, for some people who aren’t familiar with James P. Blaylock, let’s just say that he is often called a founding father of the steampunk genre. In other words, if you’re into steampunk, you need to at least get some Blaylock into your reading list. But I digress. The point is that Homunculus is a well written book that will give your imagination a great workout. Set in Victorian London, an alternative – steam ...more
Fantasy Literature
"Does the night seem uncommonly full of dead men and severed heads to you?"

Langdon St. Ives is a man of science and a member of the Royal Society. With the help of his dependable and discreet manservant, St. Ives prefers to spend his time secretly building a spaceship in his countryside silo. But currently he’s in London to help his friend Jack Owlesby recover a wooden box containing the huge emerald Jack’s father left him for an inheritance. Things get confusing when it’s discovered that there
Fantasy Literature
"Does the night seem uncommonly full of dead men and severed heads to you?"

Langdon St. Ives is a man of science and a member of the Royal Society. With the help of his dependable and discreet manservant, St. Ives prefers to spend his time secretly building a spaceship in his countryside silo. But currently he’s in London to help his friend Jack Owlesby recover a wooden box containing the huge emerald Jack’s father left him for an inheritance. Things get confusing when it’s discovered that there
I liked the idea of this novel; however, in practice it just didn't work. At points it was painstakingly slow and boring. Then there would be one chapter that was really exciting. It just wasn't consistent in pace or interest. There were also some editing issues that were very distracting to me. Once again, the episodic setup was a good idea, but just wasn't executed well. Overall, I was very bored and it wasn't as great as I hoped.
Happy Reading.
Sep 05, 2014 Jimmy rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jimmy by: Barnes &
I had to read some of the reviews of others to find out if I was the only one. Thank goodness it wasn't just me. After reading the first 4 chapters I have no idea what is going on or who I'm reading about. I love the mixture of historical fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, supernatural, & steampunk. I'd rather read something else than finish a book & have no idea what I read. That being said, you have to try it for yourself. Many loved it and other work by the author.
Troy Taggart
One would think that by the first third of the book they would know what it was about. This book left me wondering who was what, what the goal of the book was, and what language it was written in. I had to keep my dictionary handy as I went through it just to know what the old british english references were trying to relate. After some research into the book I found that it might be the second book of a series. I am still not sure as it was poorly represented.
Sorry James, I don't think I am go
Steve Wiggins
I started this series in the middle, but Blaylock is a very gifted writer and the story is very enjoyable. I was a bit confused at the end, but then, it is only one part of a series. Further thoughts: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.
James Cambias
This is one of my favorite books, a completely lunatic Victorian fantasy involving mad scientists, an alien being, grave robbers, anarchists, apocalyptic cults, a band of alchemical adventurers, a villainous sausage-maker, and the notorious Marseilles Pinkle. The story chronicles the adventures of the Trimegistus Society as they battle the sinister Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, while tracking a mystery airship piloted by a dead man.

Frankly, it's impossible to summarize the plot. This is the book that m
I bounced back and forth between 3 and 4 stars, and ultimately gave it 4. It was dark, funny at times, but unrelentingly dark. Nineteenth century London atmosphere, oh yes. Atmospheric, yes, very. Characters were hilariously British, though some were close to interchangeable, and if you quietly changed their names mid-book, I would not have noticed. This was also dark, dark horror. Long descriptions of rotting corpses, pox ridden, sick, oozing people and horrible locales made it hard to read in ...more
Catherine Siemann
I so wanted to like this book -- it's one of the first steampunk novels, and it features neat stuff like the Trismegistus Club and a sort of Flying Dutchman dirigible and the reanimated head of late 18th century mystic Joanna Southcote.

But like the skeletal remains of Southcote, it's just somehow not fleshed out. The characterization is all on the surface, and the writing just seems to skitter around from subplot to subplot, without sufficiently developing anything. It also harps, with mean-spir
Homunculus is a curious confection - filled with picaresque settings, peopled with a charming array of quirky Victorians, and jammed full of ideas, nevertheless, as a story it is somewhat lacking. Coincidence weighs heavy in e plot which struck me as if it were being made up as we went along - not crafted but dreamed up. Still, it is entertaining and I understand Blaylock has written more about his scientist hero St. Ives and I confess to being curious enough to look into more of his writing.
I bought this out of desperation. I couldn't find anything else and was running out of time. It turned out to be quite fun and entertaining. And clean! Though it seemed to be the first of a trilogy, there are a few novellas that came out first that might explain all the things I had no idea the book was talking about. You could figure it out as you went along but I hate coming into a story mid-way.
I read this during a brief dalliance with steampunk. It was brief because of books like this. Weak characterization (or shall we say no characterization), and the bad guys are just plain ol' bad guys and the good guys are just plain ol' good guys and completely generic and interchangeable. Fun concept and good Victorian sci-fi/fantasy vibe, but you gotta give me more than that.
John Pendergraft
Professor Langdon St. Ives and the Trismegistus club battle to keep the secrets of the universe out of the hands of evil industrialists, a depraved genius vivisectionist who re-animates the dead, and a fanatical cult leader. A wonderful story full of rich characters who you can only love or hate.

Favorite quote:

"The problem with the philosophers was that they were short of practical advice."
Christopher Patrick
Way better read than I expected! This novel actually taught me how to read it as I progressed: a commendable achievement.
A fantastically complex story. A lot of characters to keep tabs on. Sadly, this muddled the story somewhat. Hard to keep tabs on everybody involved. And the crescendo leading up to the resolution was baffling. Wait, what were we all doing? What was the point again?

A fun ride. I enjoyed the villains. But just a blurry mess at times.
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James Paul Blaylock is an American fantasy author. He is noted for his distinctive style. He writes in a humorous way: His characters never walk, they clump along, or when someone complains (in a flying machine) that flight is impossible, the other characters agree and show him why he's right.

He was born in Long Beach, California; studied English at California State University, Fullerton, receivin
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