James P. Blaylock – Review
Synopsis & Opening Comments
“A mysterious airship orbits through the foggy skies above Victorian London. Its terrible secrets are sought after by many, including: the Royal Society, a fraudulent evangelist, a fiendish vivisectionist, an evil millionaire and an assorted group led by the scientist and explorer Professor Langdon St.Ives.
Can St.Ives keep the alien homunculus out of the claws of the villainous Ignacio Narbondo?”
Today I’m giving you my opinions on a recently re-released novel by none other then James P. Blaylock, author of The Aylesford Skull. The novel is titled Homunculus and was first released in 1986. Homunculus is the second in the original steampunk trilogy, but ties in with the tales of Langdon St.Ives as he is once again, our protagonist in this tale.
I was kindly given this novel by Titan Books, the publishers who re-released Homunculus on the 22nd of February this year. I recently reviewed the latest James P. Blaylock novel and I loved it. Due to that fact, I was kindly given two more of the Langdon St.Ives novels to review and then give you my opinion!
Our story begins with an ominous dirigible airship floating over the city of London. Now this airship happened to have a very peculiar pilot, and when I say that, I mean that the pilot was a long dead corpse of a man, who was shackled to the ship’s piloting wheel and had been for many years. This airship has been sailing low over recent months and has been attracting the attention of a few very important groups of people, the two major teams being Narbondo’s group and the Trismegistus club, St.Ives and his friends. Narbondo has a nasty accomplice by the name of Pule, he is also in league with an evil millionaire by the name of Kelso Drake. Narbondo is being employed by an evangelist and counterfeiter by the name of Shiloh. Shiloh believes the man behind the wheel of the London ghost ship is his father, and his father is supposedly an alien. We join the story amidst all the fighting that inevitably ensues and we follow the story of St.Ives until the exciting conclusion!
The characters in this novel are beautifully crafted, just as I’ve come to expect from Blaylock. My favourite character in this book probably has to be Hasbro, St.Ives’ faithful companion. It was only about half way through that I realised how quirky Hasbro really is, pitching into sentences at just the right moments and subtly changing to fit the situation.
Dr. Narbondo is as dastardly as ever, but he has two new accomplices with whom he is working. Pule is particularly slimey, and from the moment he was introduced you could tell he was up to no good. This is just one of the many examples of Blaylock’s detailed and larger than life characters.
How well was it written?
I absolutely love this book. I picked it up and, although I was initially a little sceptical of the idea of a ghostly airship, I soon became completely absorbed into the deep and exciting story. As with Blaylock’s most recent novel, Homunculus, it is easy to read as a stand alone novel and due to this fact, even though I haven’t read the prequel book I could easily keep up with the wide variety of characters and plot lines.
I have to say that this novel is just as hard to read as The Aylesford Skull if the reader in question has no experience with the era that this book is so firmly rooted in. An example of this would be when our hero is meeting with his friends in their secret club, terms such as lepidoptery are used to disguise the true nature of the group. Lepidoptery is actually the study of Lepidopterans, these are butterflies and moths, but unless you have experience with such a hobby or are fluent in Latin, then you are unlikely to ever understand the word. I did have to use a dictionary, to ascertain the meanings of a couple of words, but personally this didn’t pose as too much of a problem.
Imagery is used once more, to blow any reader’s mind completely out of their perceived realms of possibility. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the portrait of London that Blaylock has once again moulded with terrific use of words. I am now used to zoning out of the real world and into the fantasy world of Professor St.Ives, as this seems to happen whenever I pick up one of Blaylock’s novels.
While reading this book I had many people enquire as to the plot of Homunculus and once I had given them a brief description, they would often ask to borrow it once I had finished. I laughed and turned them down, but this just goes to show how much interest this book really holds within its pages.
I am very grateful to have been sent this title, and to have been given the opportunity to share my opinions on what could be my new favourite novel, Homunculus. I have definitely come to love this series and am recommending it to any fantasy or Steampunk nerd that I know. So if you are into this genre I urge you to take a look. However, be prepared to be lost in the wonderful world of Langdon St.Ives. I have already started reading the next book in the series and will be giving you my opinions on Lord Kelvin’s Machine in about two weeks. Until then, go and read some of James P. Blaylock’s other works and leave a comment as to what you thought of them.