Lord Kelvin's Machine

James P. Blaylock, Author, J. K. Potter, Illustrator Arkham House Publishers $24.95 (262p) ISBN 978-0-87054-163-6
Blaylock ( The Paper Grail ) returns to the Victorian setting of his award-winning novel Homunculus in this tale of obsessive grief, time travel, mad scientists and gentlemanly adventure. The first of the three parts finds amateur scientist Langdon St. Ives despondent after a rainy chase of his nemesis, the evil Dr. Narbondo, ends with the death of his lady love, Alice. But St. Ives turns his grief to determination as he strives to thwart Narbondo's scheme to shift the earth into a collision with a passing comet. In the second part, an array of colorful, eccentric villains (including a revived Narbondo) compete to use Lord Kelvin's electromagnetic machine in an elaborate (and unlikely) blackmailing plot. In the novel's final section, St. Ives gives in to his private sorrow, using the machine to travel back in time in an attempt to kill a younger Narbondo and thus save Alice's life. Blaylock provides plenty of action--perhaps too much--and his characters are, if not realistic, entertaining, but this novel is not among his best work. The three episodes never cohere, and the driving force behind the plot (St. Ives's grief) is explored in detail only in the concluding section. Though St. Ives's journey through time is very well handled, at once playful and thoughtful, the sum of these three parts is less than a whole. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/03/1992
Release date: 02/01/1992
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