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Homunculus (1986)

von James P. Blaylock

Weitere Autoren: Siehe Abschnitt Weitere Autoren.

Reihen: Narbondo (2), Langdon St. Ives (1)

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4141147,813 (3.64)17
It is the late 19th century and a mysterious airship orbits through the foggy skies. Its terrible secrets are sought 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?… (mehr)
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Gawd, that was not my idea of a good read. I think I have found my weakness where books refer to one character by 3 or 4 different names. It makes me want to have a post-it note with the various ways the author refers to each one. If the whole idea of the book was to strive to recreate the confused pell-mell of a frantic scamper along the plotline, then it did it admirably. Ill be wary of more of the same in future though. ( )
2 abstimmen CliveUK | Sep 20, 2020 |
Homunculus by James P. Blaylock is a part of the “A Tale of Langdon St. Ives” series. Now, for some people who aren’t familiar with James P. Blaylock, let’s just say that he is often called a founding father of the steampunk genre. In other words, if you’re into steampunk, you need to at least get some Blaylock into your reading list. But I digress. The point is that Homunculus is a well written book that will give your imagination a great workout. Set in Victorian London, an alternative – steam powered – tale sets the scene. Our hero, Professor Langdon St. Ives, has a mission. Recover a wooden box containing a huge emerald that Jack Owlesby’s father left for him. However it’s easier said than done. Throw in a few mad-scientists, villains, a dirigible steered by a skeleton, a tiny little man in a jar who may be an alien, and reanimated corpses into the mix and you have a novel filled with sci-fi/steampunk that will have you laughing at inappropriate times, biting your nails as the story progress and turning the pages constantly.

Steampunk isn’t really my genre of choice, but I do enjoy dabbling in things that I don’t know and I was surprisingly pleased after I finished this book (lucky for me I had two other Langdon St. Ives books to read, so that rocked too). You see, what I prefer in books is originality to some degree, imaginative settings that’s creative and beautiful, and good writing. Throw those elements together and you have Homunculus, which will make you love the genre and the author (not to mention the characters). What’s more is that this particular book won the Philip K. Dick award back in the day (1986), which already tells you that it’s a really good novel and definitely worth a read.

I won’t say that steampunk is now my preferred genre, but I will keep on reading James P. Blaylock and try to keep my mind open when it comes to other steampunk authors.

(Originally reviewed on www.killeraphrodite.com ) ( )
  MoniqueSnyman | Oct 3, 2019 |
3.5 stars

ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

"Does the night seem uncommonly full of dead men and severed heads to you?"

Langdon St. Ives is a man of science and a member of the Royal Society. With the help of his dependable and discreet manservant, St. Ives prefers to spend his time secretly building a spaceship in his countryside silo. But currently he??s in London to help his friend Jack Owlesby recover a wooden box containing the huge emerald Jackƒ??s father left him for an inheritance. Things get confusing when itƒ??s discovered that there are several of these boxes that all look the same and all contain something somebody wants. Soon St. Ives, Jack, and a host of other friends and enemies become embroiled in a madcap adventure featuring a toymaker and his lovely daughter, a captain with a smokable peg leg, the scientists of the Royal Society, an evil millionaire, a dirigible steered by a skeleton, a tiny little man in a jar who may be an alien, a cult evangelist who wants to bring his mother back to life, a love-spurned alchemist who keeps trying home remedies to cure his acne, and a lot of carp and zombies.

As you may have guessed, Homunculus is zany and completely over-the-top in the right kind of way. The villains are meant to be caricatures ƒ?? one of them is hunchbacked and another sneakily lurches around England with his head wrapped in unraveling bandages. They do stupid things such as leaving the curtains open while animating corpses for the evangelist to claim as converts, and tip-toeing up dark staircases carrying bombs with lit fuses. Blaylockƒ??s bizarre but deadpan humor, in the absurdist British style (though Blaylock is American), was my favorite part of the novel. Even though Homunculus is packed with action and very funny when itƒ??s in its farcical mode, the pace sometimes lags and the shallow characters canƒ??t make up for it when that happens. Fortunately, thatƒ??s not often. The final scene is a screwball melee as all the heroes and villains, and thousands of Londonƒ??s citizens, turn out to witness the storyƒ??s climax.

I listened to Audible Frontiersƒ?? version of Homunculus which was narrated by Nigel Carrington who 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 humor which ranged from deadpan to black comedy to zany farce. In fact, I would specifically recommend the audio version of Homunculus just because Nigel Carringtonƒ??s performance was a large factor in my enjoyment of the book.

If youƒ??re in the mood for a surreal British comedy in the vein of Monty Python or Fawlty Towers, James P. Blaylockƒ??s Homunculus will fit the bill nicely. Published in 1986, this is one of the earlier steampunk novels. In fact, Blaylock, along with friends K.W. Jeter and Tim Powers, all of whom studied with Philip K. Dick, are considered fathers of modern steampunk, and it was Jeter who coined the term to describe their work.

Homunculus won the Philip K. Dick Award in 1986. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
My reaction to reading this novel in 2002. Spoilers follow.

I can see, after reading this book, why Tim Powers says many of the funny bits of his books are just notes from his talks with his friend Blaylock.

Blaylock is funny. He gives many of his characters endearing quirks. Captain Powers, no doubt named for Tim Powers who, in his The Anubis Gates, had a ship named the Blaylock, has a fondness for objects which double as flasks, including his peg leg. His friend William Keeble, a toymaker, despises the Utilitarian notions of philosopher Jeremy Benthem, in marked contrast to evil industrialist Drake, symbol of rapacious practicality. Langdon St. Ives is a brilliant scientist with a rocket ship in his silo. However, he can't get into the Royal Academy of Sciences and likes the whimsy of poetry over the stiff requirements of science. Hasbro is his unflappable, practical gentleman's gentleman. Bill Kraken is a lowborn man of a criminal past who now helps the Trismegistus Club, and he is sort of self-educated though his readings in science and philosophy, including a work by William Ashbless which stops a bullet from killing him, has left him with some strange notions. Willis Pule is a hapless, acne plagued villain who harbors constant fantasies of revenge and destruction against those who offend his dignity though none of his plans come out right. Hunchback Ignacio Narbondo is his boss. Shiloh the New Messiah is the putative son of Joanna Southcote, a real religious figure of the late 18th and early 19th century who, when she died, claimed she was pregnant with Shiloh who would rule nations with a rod of iron. (The modern Panacea Society, according to the Fortean Times continues her teachings.)

I liked some of the plot elements of this novel: stealing carps from a public aquarium to use their glands in immortality and reanimation experiments; reanimating the dead and using them as followers for Shiloh, the attempted reanimation of Joanna Southcote's skeleton, feeding the resurrected dead with literal blood pudding, Maxwell's Demon turning out not to be an analogy but a literal being -- in this case the stranded alien homunculus.

The novel is funny in parts -- Blaylock even works in a playful reference to Samuel Delany with St. Ives' thought experiments on time as a corridor viewed through translucent doors: "Time Considered as a Succession of Semi-closed Doors".

I liked the Victorian gentlemanliness that inhibits all the heroes from resorting to lethal violence. Indeed, at novel's end, villains Pule and Drake and Narbondo are still alive. I liked St. Ives stealing the alien spaceship out of a London brothel of Drake's. I liked the mysteriousness and playful macabre imagery of the skeletal Birdlip aloft in his dirigible for years and how, at novel's end, his animated skeleton goes off in the spaceship with the alien homunculus, its desire, and life, and the nature of its decade long aerial quest unrevealed.

I did not like the rather screwball comedy aspects of the novel's end with a giant emerald, the homunculus, an oxygenator for St. Ives' rocket, an entropy-reversing engine all hidden in identical toy boxes built by Keeble. I don't think screwball comedy plots work well on the page, and this one specifically reminded me of the identical suitcases in the movie What's Up, Doc?. ( )
  RandyStafford | Dec 31, 2013 |
keine Rezensionen | Rezension hinzufügen

» Andere Autoren hinzufügen (2 möglich)

AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
James P. BlaylockHauptautoralle Ausgabenberechnet
FerretIllustratorCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
Marano, Lydia C.UmschlagillustrationCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
Roberts, KeithEinführungCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
Warhola, JamesUmschlagillustrationCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
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It is the late 19th century and a mysterious airship orbits through the foggy skies. Its terrible secrets are sought 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?

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