The Aylesford Skull by James P. Blaylock
I love steampunk. It’s fun, has that historical element that I enjoy and yet is firmly grounded in fantasy. Who better to highlight as my first review on this site, than one of the grandfathers of steampunk, James P. Blaylock. We had the pleasure of interviewing Jim on the podcast back on Episode 6 and what a great guy, in addition to being an awesome author. I had just finished The Aylesford Skull and thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, it’s one of my fave books of 2013, so it’s the perfect choice for my review here.
What an absolutely delightful book from one of the founding fathers of the steampunk genre! With appropriately steampunkish props, St. Ives is back with a new mystery to solve. One that becomes more personal than he’d like. And that’s all I’m saying about the plot, so as not to invoke spoilers.
Blaylock’s writing is elegant. It is reminiscent of the Victorian era, but appeals to modern readers and never becomes stuffy. With touches of humor that actually made me laugh out loud, he has created characters that are rich, complex and easy to fall in love with. Even his supporting cast soon has you rooting for them. The story is fast-paced and the mystery elements work well. Indeed the book itself is a very fast read, which kept me turning those pages.
Overall, the novel is excellent and entertaining and I highly recommend it!
Read on for more and for links!
The Aylesford Skull
It’s the summer of 1883, and Professor Langdon St. Ives, brilliant and eccentric scientist and explorer, is at home in Aylesford with his family. A few miles to the north a steam launch has been taken by pirates above Egypt Bay, the crew murdered and pitched overboard. In Aylesford itself a grave is opened and robbed of the skull by the infamous Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, an old nemesis of Langdon St. Ives. When Narbondo returns to kidnap St. Ives’s four-year-old son and then vanishes into the night, St. Ives and his factotum Hasbro, race into London in pursuit, where they are drawn into a dark plot that threatens London and the earth itself.
James P. Blaylock
James P. Blaylock is a southern California writer whose short stories, novels, and collections have been published around the world. He was one of the literary pioneers of the Steampunk movement, along with Tim Powers and K.W. Jeter, publishing the first domestic Steampunk story, “The Ape-box Affair” in 1978. Blaylock’s Steampunk novel Homunculus won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award in 1986. His short story “Paper Dragons” won the World Fantasy Award in 1986, “Thirteen Phantasms” in 1997, and his story “Unidentified Objects” was nominated for an O. Henry Award in 1990. Despite his close association with Steampunk, most of his work is contemporary, realistic fantasy set in southern California, typified by books like The Last Coin, The Rainy Season, and Knights of the Cornerstone, which have lead to his being referred to as both a California regional writer and a writer of magical realism.
Jim began teaching composition in 1976, and during the fifteen years that followed he taught both composition and creative writing at several Orange County, California, colleges and universities. For the past twenty years he has been a professor at Chapman University. In 2000, he developed the Creative Writing Conservatory at the Orange County School of the Arts and has directed the conservatory since. In 2012 he received the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program Teacher Recognition Award in Washington D.C.
You can buy The Aylesford Skull (Tale of Langdon St. Ives) at Amazon.
You can stay up-to-date with James P. Blaylock at the following links: