Book Review – The Aylesford Skull

Alyesford SkullSciFiFX celebrates the release of author James P. Blaylock‘s first full length steampunk novel in 20 years!

For the uninitiated, James P. Blaylock is considered to be one of the founding fathers of steampunk, along with Tim Powers and K. W. Jeter, all three of whom are incredibly gifted storytellers.  Mr. Blaylock has won the World Fantasy Award and the Philip K. Dick Award.  If you love the wonders of the Victorian age, steam powered gadgetry, and adventure that honors the legacy of the great Jules Verne, then steampunk is for you, and Mr. Blaylock’s works are required reading.  It’s some of the best homework you could ever have.  The latest in the “Narbondo series,” The Aylesford Skull is an instant classic in the genre, and a worthy addition to any fan’s library.

From the cover:

It is the summer of 1883 and Professor Langdon St. Ives, brilliant but eccentric scientist and explorer, is at home in Aylesford with his family. However 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 possibly robbed of the skull. The suspected grave robber, the infamous Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, is an old nemesis of Langdon St. Ives. When Dr. Narbondo returns to kidnap his four-year-old son Eddie and then vanishes into the night, St. Ives and his factotum Hasbro race into London in pursuit…

Fans of Mr. Blaylock will know the long and sordid Holmes / Moriarty styled history between St. Ives and Narbondo, but newcomers need not feel left out.  Each book in the “Narbondo series” is a standalone adventure, and The Aylesford Skull is certainly no exception.  Although this volume will honestly read better for those who do have the previous books under their belts, it does stand as both an introduction and a reintroduction to this world, inviting anyone along for the ride who simply enjoys a fun read.  Be warned, however.  Even clocking in at over 400 pages, the book flies by and leaves you wanting more.  The good news is that while you’re waiting for the next one, it gives you the excuse you needed to go back and read the others all over again.  Those who have read his work will expect his ability to breathe new life into the seemingly mundane and to just as easily paint a simple yet detailed portrait of the most complex and fantastic devices and locales.  Mr. Blaylock delivers it all in his accustomed style.  It’s just the kind of read that’s perfect for those lazy Sunday afternoons.

The cover says, “Steampunk Legend” under his name.  Trust me, it’s a well-earned accolade.

The Aylesford Skull makes its debut on January 15 from Titan Books, along with a reprinting of two other Langdon St. Ives novels, Homonculus and Lord Kelvin’s Machine.