Winner of the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award
In 1870s London, a city of contradictions and improbabilities, where living men are willing to risk all to steal a carp. Here, a night of bangers and ale at the local pub can result in an eternity at the Blood Pudding with the rest of the reanimated dead.
A dead man has been piloting a mysterious decaying airship across the foggy skies of the city for some years, arousing the interest of many: the Royal Society, a fraudulent evangelist named Shiloh, the vivisectionist Dr. Ignacio Narbondo and of course the scientist and explorer Professor Langdon St. Ives.
St. Ives and his friends of the Trismegistus Club are more concerned with the inheritance of Jack Owlesby, a fine young fellow affianced to Dorothy, the beautiful daughter of toymaker/inventor William Keeble, who builds jolly boxes for space aliens, oxygenators, and gigantic emeralds. Jack's late father bequeathed him just such a gem, but also left behind dark knowledge related to the evil Narbondo. St. Ives suspects that Narbondo and his assistant, are using this knowledge to raise the dead, possibly for nefarious purposes. When poor Bill Kraken steals what everyone assumes to be Owlesby's emerald in a fit of alien-induced madness, ambitions, greed and heroism collide turning Hampstead Heath into a carnival of flying skulls, crumbling ghouls and crashing spaceships.
This rip-roaring, highly entertaining steam punk classic is the second book in the Narbondo series, written by Blaylock, one of the literary pioneers of the Steampunk movement. Set in the same world, the series need not be read in order.
"Try this zany story on audio...Nigel Carrington was a brilliant choice. There are a lot of similar characters in Homunculus, but Mr. Carrington made them distinguishable. He also hit exactly the right tone with the humour which ranged from deadpan to black comedy to zany farce. In fact, I would specifically recommend the audio version of Homunculus just because Nigel Carrington's performance was a large factor in my enjoyment of the book…. As you may have guessed, Homunculus is zany and completely over-the-top in the right kind of way….If you’re in the mood for a surreal British comedy in the vein of Monty Python or Fawlty Towers, James P. Blaylock’s Homunculus will fit the bill nicely." (fantasyliterature.com)
“Fascinating, darkly atmospheric, absurd and brilliant. “ (rantingdragon.com)
“Blaylock keeps the action moving by cutting back and forth nimbly between various plots and characters (and points of view), bringing everyone together for a bizarre, but satisfying ending.” (greenmanreview.com)
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An epic to lose yourself in, brilliant narration
I've come back to this book time and again because I am always amazed by Blaylock's perfect capture of the texture and rhythms of the Victorian period of which he writes. Neither heavy-handed nor affected, his use of period sensibilities and language comes through not only in perfectly balanced dialogue, but also his sharply observed descriptions and well-paced narratives of action. His characters are at first an array of pantomime parodies (the baddie is a hunchback named Narbando? Seriously?), but they soon reveal their own personalities and unexpected complexities as the story unfolds. And we cannot ignore the story itself, of course. Throw a cast of characters like this into a landscape littered with all the possibilities of a twisted version of Victorian London, drop in the possibility of immortality, sprinkle with zombies, and of course you are going to get a good story, but Blaylock's weird and darkly humorous mind has made it a GREAT story. And the thing I love best about this book is how he treats both the characters and the landscapes: from the grand sweeping views of the London cityscape over which passes a dirigible flown by an animate corpse, to the intimate exchange between Langdon St Ives and the butler he believes he is fooling with a ridiculous disguise, Blaylock pulls it off with a perfect blend of warmth, detail, and style that would be intimidating if it wasn't so tongue in cheek.
I admit I began Homonculus reluctantly, with preconceived stereotypes of the whole steampunk thing, and very ready to dislike and mock the book. But I am ready to admit how wrong I was, and have gotten so much enjoyment not only from this book but other James P. Blaylock works in this and other series that I am grateful I took a chance on this all those years ago (still unsure about the steampunk scene, however).