Miriam's Reviews > Lord Kelvin's Machine

Lord Kelvin's Machine by James P. Blaylock
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's review
Dec 13, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: fantasy, memory

At first I tried to tell myself it was just me. I was reading under adverse conditions -- on a ferry, going to meet a friend I knew was upset, tired from work -- I probably just missed something. You know, that little explanation or aside that would make the action comprehensible. I went back and reread the first chapter. Nope, still didn't make sense. Well, you know, there are those authors who like to throw you into the story en medias res and then give you the backstory as they go along. That sometimes works very effectively. If the author actually gets around to filling you in, that is. And there is a backstory of sorts, it just wasn't enough to make me care about the characters or excuse the author from being totally unable to structure his book in a balanced, coherent fashion.

So there's this guy we don't know driving a carriage at night, and he gets a weird message, and then he falls asleep despite the fact that he is rushing to rescue his beloved wife from his nemesis, and they crash, and he doesn't save her. Because he is really hesitant about shooting even a very evil person who is about to kill his wife. But don't worry, you won't be upset about this poor lady getting shot in the head because there are no details and we never meet Alice or really learn anything about her, and her supposedly-brilliant-scientist husband doesn't have much more personality, either, he pretty much stumbles around being incoherent. Narbando, our villain, is even less explicable. Why does he hate our hero? Why do all the bad guys like vivisection? Why are hunchbacks so evil? We will never know, because the nemesis is hardly more present in the story than the dead wife. It pretty much is just St Ives -- oh, except that middle third of the book that is narrated by some other guy. Not the titular Lord Kelvin, he only has a walk-on. And there's a lot of staying in a bed-and-breakfast. Actually I think it was several inns, supposedly in different countries, but they all seem the same. And just when you think you are near the end of book, finally the time travel mentioned on the cover will happen. But by then you'll be sick of the bland characters and impossibly confused yet pointless events and not care.
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Reading Progress

December 13, 2010 – Started Reading
December 13, 2010 – Shelved
December 27, 2010 –
page 115
47.13% "How did this moron become a detective?"
December 27, 2010 –
page 125
51.23% "Sure, "go to town on" is such a Victorian expression."
January 7, 2011 –
page 163
66.8% "Isn't this a bit late in the story to bring in time travel?"
January 10, 2011 –
page 174
71.31% "This bit where the protagonist loses his marbles is the most convincing part so far."
February 15, 2011 –
page 198
81.15% "No, you can't just have your protagonist "feel compelled" to go somewhere find his nemesis happens to be there -- unless you're introducing psychic powers as well as time travel."
February 16, 2011 – Finished Reading

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