Thumbs down for Lord Kelvin’s Machine by James P. Blaylock. Fantasy.
First off: Worst. Illustrations. Ever. Nothing can be quite so bad as a bad photo montage. About the book: well, it’s in three sections. In the first, there’s a comet passing close by the earth. The villain, Ignacio Narbondo, is threatening to set off volcanoes on the opposing side of the earth in order to push the earth into the comet’s path. The hero, Langdon St. Ives, wants to do the reverse to push the earth out of the comet’s path. The Royal Academy wants to use Lord Kelvin’s secret machine to reverse the polarity of the earth’s magnetic poles, briefly leaving us without an electromagnetic field, under the apparent belief that electromagnetism = mass. (I will give you this at least: they’re never presented as being correct.) Then this same machine shows up in the next section in use as a straight electromagnet, sinking ships from the bottom of the ocean. In the third section it gets attached to a bathyscape and turned into a time machine. ‘Cause electromagnetism also = time, apparently. Now, this could all be ridiculous good fun, except it’s not. The characters are flat, the writing is flat. I know this is the second book involving this hero and villain, so there may have been some earlier character development, but frankly I just didn’t care. And there are no excuses for not making a reader care.
Parsons nodded wearily. “Oxford man. Renegade academician. They’re a dangerous breed when they go feral, academics are. Higgins was a chemist, too. Came back from the Orient with insane notions about carp. Insisted that they could be frozen and thawed out, months later, years. You could keep them in a deep freeze, he said. Some sort of glandular excretion, as I understand it, that drained water out of the cells, kept them from bursting when they froze. He was either an expert in cryogenics or a lunatic. It’s your choice. He was clearly off his head, though. I think it was opium that did it. He claimed to dream these things.”
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