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By now, we should have given you, the curious reader, a firm grounding in the sub-Sci-Fi genre of all that is Steampunk. From The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack to Mike Resnick’s The Buntline Special to the Society of Steam series of books, there are copious alternate history timelines to explore with a snifter of brandy by the e-reader cyber-light…
This week’s review, The Lazarus Machine: A Tweed & Nightingale Adventure by Paul Crilley and out from Pyr Books is a fine addition to Steampunk lore. The Lazarus Machine is a young adult tale which follows the exploits of Sebastian Tweed and Octavia Nightingale through an alternate 1895 London that never was. This universe builds on the ideas of William Gibson’s & Bruce Sterling’s original The Difference Engine, the tale that kicked of the Steampunk genre while adding some wonderful new twists. Charles Babbage’s brass calculating machine known as the Difference Engine has been built, ushering in the computing age over a century early. Babbage is now a monolithic name and in competition with computer genius Ada Lovelace as sort of the PC versus Mac of the Victorian era. Throw in some Tesla-powered side arms and wireless power transmission towers, and you have a fascinating backdrop for an original page-turning Steampunk adventure. Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis (and occasional astronomer) Professor Moriarty make an appearance as well, as Tweed & Nightingale seek to unravel a political conspiracy with Earth-shaking implications.
The Lazarus Machine in the title refers to a contraption that can literally transpose the soul of one body into another. It’s interesting that this builds to some extent on the late 18th century idea of perhaps catching and quantifying the soul and even using electricity (think Frankenstein) to reanimate the dead. Bodies were even weighed before and shortly after death to seek out the “weight of the soul” and photographed in hopes of catching its vaporous departure. To our knowledge, the spurious dabbling of science with the arcane in the Victorian era has never before been fleshed out in a Steampunk novel.
Nightingale and Tweed also make a great foil for each other, and we can easily see The Lazarus Machine morphing into a series. Octavia can certainly take care of herself, brandishing a Tesla gun in the defense of Tweed on more than one occasion as they thread the streets of a crime infested London both above ground and below. Certainly, the era is ripe for further exploits; what are Tesla and a late 19th century Steampunk Edison up to on the other side of the pond? With the proper backing, Tesla alone could have single-handedly ushered in an alternate timeline…
Give The Lazarus Machine a read for a fine Steampunk adventure. The tale harkens back to some true-to-life characters as they thread through a wonderful alternate timeline universe of Victorian England.
Next Week: What to Navy SEALs and astronomy gear have in common? Stay tuned for our on-the-road field gear review!