An alternate 1895… a world where Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace perfected the Difference engine. Where steam and tesla-powered computers are everywhere. Where automatons powered by human souls venture out into the sprawling London streets. Where the Ministry, a secretive government agency, seeks to control everything in the name of the Queen.
It is in this claustrophobic, paranoid city that seventeen-year-old Sebastian Tweed and his conman father struggle to eke out a living.
But all is not well…
A murderous, masked gang has moved into London, spreading terror through the criminal ranks as they take over the underworld. as the gang carves up more and more of the city, a single name comes to be uttered in fearful whispers.
When Tweed’s father is kidnapped by Moriarty, he is forced to team up with information broker Octavia Nightingale to track him down. But he soon realizes that his father’s disappearance is just a tiny piece of a political conspiracy that could destroy the British Empire and plunge the world into a horrific war. (goodreads.com)
This was in Pyr’s catalogue and it sounded interesting so, among other books, I requested THE LAZARUS MACHINE for review. I’m not big into steampunk but I liked the way the story sounded here.
The story starts with a con job that’s about to go tits up when Tweed’s dad up and gets kidnapped by some gas-masked dudes that kill everyone else in the room. How does that NOT keep me reading? I’m less than impressed with the writing style but the story had me hooked almost from the first page. Certainly from the first chapter. The action just kept going.
The intrigue and the twists and turns. The story itself was a breathless mystery that involved steampunk-like technology and all the evils that come alone with it. People dream big and sometimes those dreams get away from them and it sucks other people into them too. I was kept guessing a lot of the time (although I’m usually not quick to guess any kind of plot bunny going on so take that for what you will) and there were a couple twists in the story that took me by surprise. I liked being surprised when I read. Being able to guess everything would just get boring.
Octavia was an interesting character and I liked how outspoken she was and how much she bucked the system and went against societal norms of the time. Although I think that’s fairly normal for steampunk, right? Still since it was really Tweed’s story she did take a back seat for a lot of it. Unless she was in the front seat playing real like Grand Theft Dirigible to keep them out of trouble’s reach.
I really liked Carter and Jenny and I wish they played a more prominent role in the story but they were more off-screen than they were on. The dynamic between the couple, how they were endearingly antagonistic toward each other but how in love they were with each other created great reading. Of course, since this is a YA novel you can’t give the adults the front page so they were kept to the background but they played their part. I’d like to read on just for them, if I’m honest.
The writing itself left a bit to be desired. It’s not the POV shifts that bothered me or the number of characters. Really, they were all reasonably easy to tell apart. It’s just there wasn’t any flair to the language. It served its purpose and told the story and that was about it. No flourish, no shazaam, nothing. If the action wasn’t so prominent and I wasn’t able to project enough image from what I was reading it would have been rather dull. It was kind of a push to keep reading as it was because while I liked it it was toeing the line of being not for me and the writing itself certainly wasn’t helping.
There are some damn good characters in THE LAZARUS MACHINE and I think the book is worth reading just for them. Not to mention the story is pretty action-packed and you really can’t stop for breath at all. If it were any longer it very well could have been an exhausting read for that reason. But the writing is less than thrilling. It lends itself to a rather static, textbook-like read where, in hindsight, I had more going on in my head than what the page was telling me. There’s little to no oomph about it and it’s a shame because the rest of it is rather good. I did almost want to put it down but I trucked through it and I’m glad I did but I’m nonplussed about reading on in the series. I may get to it eventually but I’m not in a rush to.