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Homunculus

(Narbondo #2)

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  828 ratings  ·  89 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 March 1986)
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Jerry Balzano I don't think so. The first book mostly takes place in the 20th C. and this book, I believe, is in the 19th ... in any case, it predates the second bo…moreI don't think so. The first book mostly takes place in the 20th C. and this book, I believe, is in the 19th ... in any case, it predates the second book, some of whose characters are actually descendants of the characters here. Knowing the first book enriches the second in a kind of general way, but there is nothing specific about that book that you need to know in order to understand and appreciate this one.(less)

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Average rating 3.47  · 
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 ·  828 ratings  ·  89 reviews


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Kat  Hooper
Mar 17, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
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
...more
Simon Brading
It was good, it was interesting, but there were just too many people running around doing too many different things for me to care to much about whether they succeeded or not, so I never really felt the pull to keep reading that books often have.
Eric
Apr 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  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
...more
Neb
Jun 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lovers of Victorian fantastical fiction, Steampunk fans
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
Charlie
Sep 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Bruce
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Grab your top hat and hold on. A group of scientists and adventurers band together to resist the machinations of a despicable millionaire, an misguided "messiah", a hunchbacked evil necro-scientist, and an ambitious young alchemist. They're in pursuit of a drifting blimp with a skeletal pilot.

The writing is a bit difficult but consistent with Victorian period of time; Dickens is a bit easier to read (for me). "Cabinet" (as a term for an apartment) was a bit overused.

Intricate devices and la
...more
Jon
Mar 27, 2020 rated it liked it
There‘s evil afoot in the fog shrouded streets of Victorian London. Corpses are being reanimated, damsels are being kidnapped, and above it all, a derelict airship is circling with either an alien or a tiny imp imprisoned aboard it. Oh, and one of the main characters is building a spaceship for a little jaunt around the solar system. Homunculus is a steampunk novel and its author, James Blaylock, is credited as one of the pioneers in that genre. Like a lot of steampunk novels, Homunculus contain ...more
Keary Birch
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
I'm sad to say that I found this a very unsatisfactory read. The characters were one dimensional and interchangeable and I'm not sure that there was a story. I won't be reading any more of this author's work.
Monique Snyman
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Andrew
Apr 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a tricky one - If I rated this book just on how easy and enjoyable it was it would be a 2 BUT I know that is as much me as anything and I have read other James Blaylock books which I have really enjoyed so I am giving it a three star because to use that famous quote - its not you, its me!

So where did it all wrong - well its hard to put my finger on it, from protagonists I just could not associate with, I never really felt like rooting for the hero (or even who the hero was), to the style
...more
Cécile C.
Jun 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: steampunk
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
Mark
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
A plethora of plots that drive you to ask that question that is on everyone's mind......"does the night seem uncommonly full of dead men and severed heads?". An entertaining journey up and under and all around. My second St. Ives adventure...... looking forward to the next.
Eric
Apr 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Velvetink
Sep 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Bizarre & I loved it.

*note to self. Copy from A. (different cover and edition) scan later.
...more
Emily
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
For years I'd thought James Blaylock wrote only odd little fantasies. Little did I know that he is apparently one of the heavyweights of steampunk. I've never really gotten into steampunk - I am fascinated by the idea of steam-powered spaceships, perpetual motion machines, alchemy, and the like, but I have no interest in zombies, which seems to be an inescapable staple of the genre. But because of the odd little fantasies (The Elfin Ship, mostly), I thought I'd give this a whirl.

True, it has zom
...more
Jefferson
Ghoulish, Picaresque, London Steampunk Farce

“Within the gondola, looking for all the world as if he were piloting the moon itself, was a rigid figure in a cocked hat, gripping the wheel, his legs planted widely as if set to counter an ocean swell. The wind tore at his tattered coat, whipping it out behind him and revealing the dark curve of a ribcage, empty of flesh, ivory moonlight glowing in the crescents of air between the bones. His wrists were manacled to the wheel, which itself was lashed
...more
Yuri Karabatov
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, fantasy
The plot is interesting, but the characters seemed to be flailing about unnecessarily. As other reviews said, the start was slow but the pace improved towards the second half.
Tim
Jun 11, 2010 rated it liked it
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 m
...more
Jonathan
Jan 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: steampunk-read
Anyone who regularly reads Steampunk novels will already be aware of James P. Blaylock’s status as one of the big three writers in the genre, along with K. W. Jeter and Tim Powers. Going back and rereading their work is always rewarding, but it becomes all the more interesting having read the work of contemporary steampunk authors. It’s easy to see how influenced they are by the greats; as the basic building blocks of a good steampunk story are still the same today.
Evident throughout the Langd
...more
Christopher
Oct 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Nancy
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: steampunk, aliens
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
...more
John
Jul 20, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: steampunk
I'll give you that my take on the book is probably due to reader failure--it did win an award back in the '80s after all. But to stick-up for myself here, I do enjoy certain key points in my novels (character development, plot, and coherence to name but a few). At the end of the day, I can even see why many who approach the novel from a literary standpoint could call it genius since it is an amalgamation of loosely related parts sewn together to create something monstrous. Unfortunately, I saw n ...more
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
...more
Fantasy Literature
Jul 13, 2013 rated it liked it
"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
...more
Benjamin Kahn
Mar 18, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I had problems getting into this book. Partly it was the head space I was in, but the book also feels like you've joined it in progress. Characters are introduced as if you already know them, the plot seems as if you should already have a grasp on what's going on. I had to read the Wikipedia summary before I felt I understood the plot, and I was almost a hundred pages in at that point.

The book does pick up in the middle and I started to get into it, but then it loses momentum at the end again. T
...more
Gareth
Nov 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Hugely entertaining romp, mixing aliens, fantasy and Victoriana to dizzying effect.
Heidi Middlebrough
Jun 01, 2016 rated it did not like it
This book gets zero stars. I read half the novel and still don't know what was going on. And let me be clear - I have fantastic reading comprehension.
Brian Rogers
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wren Handman
Apr 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I picked this book up ages ago, when I signed up to teach a class on steampunk, and when the class fell apart I never did get around to reading the book. So as part of my project for the year (reading every second book from my endless to-read pile), I picked this one up.

Overall I enjoyed the story, though the writing was occasionally confusing. The number of characters and their unique plotlines was a bit overwhelming, and sometimes I felt like I was reading a sequel to a novel he had never publ
...more
Lorna
Aug 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: steampunk
All the features you'd expect in a steampunk fantasy novel - Victorian London, spacecraft, fallen women, mad science. James Blaylock and Tim Powers' novels have developed this style together for a long time, with shared and mutual references: one of the characters in this novel is called Powers, and the works of William Ashbless, which we have met in Powers' The Anubis Gates, also play their part here.

It's an unashamed romp, with non-stop madcap action, and something of the farce about it. It sh
...more
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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
...more

Other books in the series

Narbondo (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • The Digging Leviathan (Narbondo, #1)
  • Lord Kelvin's Machine (Narbondo, #3)
  • The Ebb Tide (Narbondo, #4)
  • The Affair of the Chalk Cliffs (Narbondo, #5)
  • Zeuglodon (Narbondo, #6)
  • The Aylesford Skull (Narbondo, #7)
  • The Adventure of the Ring of Stones (Narbondo, #8)
  • Beneath London (Narbondo, #9)
  • River's Edge (Narbondo, #10)
  • The Gobblin' Society  (Narbondo, #11)

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