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The Great Eastern

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  65 ratings  ·  17 reviews
A dazzling, inventive literary adventure story in which Captain Ahab confronts Captain Nemo and the dark cultural stories represented by both characters are revealed in cliffhanger fashion.

A sprawling adventure pitting two of literature’s most iconic anti-heroes against each other: Captain Nemo and Captain Ahab. Caught between them: real-life British engineer Isambard King
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Melville House
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Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Writing a review for this book is a daunting endeavor.

As a fan of historical fiction and sea literature, I have to applaud Mr. Rodman’s ability to fuse history, two of the great heroes of fiction, and put it all in a readable and compelling story. This novel reads like a love letter to the work of Jules Verne, Herman Melville, and the life of the great Industrial Age engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Imperialism is the villain here, and the double-edged sword of global -communication provides t
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
With all the outrageous linguistic brio of literary forebears Jules Verne and Henry Melville--and I would daresay Dickens and even Twain--Howard Rodman has created a steampunk tour de force in The Great Eastern. In 1852 when it was created, it was the largest steamship ever built, an ironclad monster designed by the unrivaled engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a real-life figure whose glorious career (in the novel) is cut short by a vengeful, coolly vindictive submariner Captain Nemo. Pressed int ...more
Nancy Oakes

Seriously, I had so much fun with this novel that I was sad when it ended. The five stars reflect not only the author's excellent and delightful writing and the story itself, but also the sheer sense of pleasure this book afforded me while reading. I happen to love what I call a "rollicking good adventure yarn" and this more than fits that bill while at the same time focusing on, as one Amazon reviewer put it,

"European transformation of the world in the 1
Oct 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I often find overwritten books charming, but this one is overwritten even for overwritten books. It’s almost eighty pages before two characters have a conversation. Ahab’s speech veers wildly from a fairly good approximation in some places to horrible “talk like a pirate day” pastiche. The book ends fully sixty pages before it stops.
The premise is charming, and at times the book lives up to that potential, but mostly it’s just pages of overworked imitation of 19th century prose.
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, edelweiss
I found this book engaging and entertaining, one those book you cannot put down.
I loved the mix of different stories/characters and I liked how the plot was developed.
I look forward to reading other books by this author.
Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC.
Jeffrey Powanda
Aug 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: moby-dick
Rambunctious pastiche that pits Captain Nemo from Jules Verne's classic novels against Captain John Ahab of Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Also on hand is famed British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who designed the largest steel ship ever built, The Great Eastern. Nemo intends to use his submarine Nautilus to destroy the transatlantic cable, which is being laid on the ocean bed by The Great Eastern. The captain of The Great Eastern is John Ahab, who miraculously survived the sinking of The Pe ...more
Matthew Kerns
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've started to write this review five or six times, and every time have deleted it because it came across as more maudlin gushing than actual review. But you know what, some books deserve a good maudlin gushing.

This book is fabulous. The characters, the story, and especially the language. There were passages that were near Nabakovian, in the sense that you wanted to immediately reread a passage because of its prosaic beauty as much as its impact on the story. And what a story! The combination o
Ronald Koltnow
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Howard A. Rodman is a charming man, and it is no surprise that he has written a charming book. Charming, that is to say, for a book that deals with death, violence, and imperialism. Rodman fills this steampunk adventure with history (real and imagined). The central conceit of Captains Ahab and Nemo chasing each other pales in comparison with the vast tragic scope of this novel. Both men are romantic characters, driven by vengeance and unable to escape their pasts. However, it seems less fantasy ...more
Barry Smolin
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Deep and delicious, The Great Eastern is Howard Rodman's plunge into classic storytelling with some postmodern panache, a commingling of history and several different fictions. As Captains Nemo and Ahab intersect with real events and people, Rodman employs kaleidoscopic shifts in narrative voice--rendered with pitch-perfect accuracy--to create a seamless intertextual and captivating story that is illuminating, moving, referential, reverential, meticulously researched, and imaginatively daring. N ...more
Janet Jones
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
How imaginative and magical and beautifully written is the wild ride with some of modern literary icons; Ahab and Nemo to cross paths with the brilliant 19th Century British engineer, Brunel (the man who brought rails, bridges and tunnels to Victorian England.)

Alive with period detail and a tale to make your head spin from the sheer giddy pleasure of a well told tale, The Great Eastern is a pleasure to read - it is also a great book to read aloud - such are the joys of Rodman's prose! Enjoy the
Jay Gabler
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you’re the kind of steampunk who wears a striped tank suit and a monocle on vacation, this is the beach read for you. I reviewed The Great Eastern for The Tangential. ...more
Galen Strickland
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received an ARC of this title from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Slow to start, mainly due to the anachronistic style, even though that did suit the subject matter. An alternate history, as well as a mash-up of real people and events with characters from fiction. Recommended.
Rob Murray
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
I was intrigued by this book, and wanted to like it, I really did. It is just too overwritten for me to appreciate, I suppose. I still can’t decide if this was an ode to turn-of-the century storytelling or a parody. Sigh. Not for me.
Oct 21, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a steampunk alternate history of the Great Eastern, a massive ship built in the 1800s. The story pits Captain Nemo against Captain Ahab, and it's written in period language, which is certainly not for everyone, but I quite enjoyed it.
Peter Aronson
Jul 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Two-and-a-half-starts, rounded up. The conceit of this book was wonderful, but the execution lacked, with one-dimensional characters and deliberately anti-climatic plotting. Meh.
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christmas-2019
Absolutely marvelous. Wonderful splicing of these tales. Some paragraphs just drop dead gorgeous. Rich with allegory and the “linguistic brio” one reviewer noted is quite apt.
Campbell Andrews
Jul 21, 2019 rated it liked it
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Howard A. Rodman is the author of the novel THE GREAT EASTERN — a sprawling, lavish anticolonial adventure, set in New York, London, Paris, India, and the North Atlantic in the late 1800s — forthcoming June 4, 2019 from Melville House Books/Penguin Random House. Jonathan Lethem calls it "A historical phantasmagoria and ripping adventure. Like twelve of your favorite movies at once, in full Sensurr ...more

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