Booked til Tuesday

Life, Law & Libros

The Lazarus Machine by Paul Crilley (3 stars)

If the book cover makes you think of action, adventure, mystery and Victorian England, you're right. Paul Crilley's The Lazarus Machine is a steampunk ride through a London beset once more by the evils of Professor Moriarty. With a little help and a few explosions, conman's assistant Sebastian Tweed and journalist-in-training Octavia Nightingale set out to find their kidnapped parents. I admit, this cover and synopsis gave me some pretty high expectations and, while it didn't wow me like, say, Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, The Lazarus Machine was definitely worth reading.

This copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Lazarus Machine by Paul Crilley
Series: Tweed & Nightingale Adventures #1
Genres: YA, Sci-fi, Steampunk
Published on November 6, 2012
Published by Prometheus Books (Pyr)
Final Rating: 3 star

An alternate 1895... a world where Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace perfected the Difference engine. Where steam and tesla-powered computers are everywhere. Where automatons powered by human souls venture out into the sprawling London streets. Where the Ministry, a secretive government agency, seeks to control everything in the name of the Queen.

It is in this claustrophobic, paranoid city that seventeen-year-old Sebastian Tweed and his conman father struggle to eke out a living.

But all is not well...

A murderous, masked gang has moved into London, spreading terror through the criminal ranks as they take over the underworld. as the gang carves up more and more of the city, a single name comes to be uttered in fearful whispers.

Professor Moriarty.

When Tweed’s father is kidnapped by Moriarty, he is forced to team up with information broker Octavia Nightingale to track him down. But he soon realizes that his father’s disappearance is just a tiny piece of a political conspiracy that could destroy the British Empire and plunge the world into a horrific war.

What I Liked:
  • The setting and the technology. It's Victorian, it's steampunk, and it did things I expect from sci-fi movies like "The 5th Element" and "The 6th Day," but in a believably steampunk way.
  • Even during slower scenes, the pace moves at a fast clip. The flow of the scenes and the stops/transitions reminded me of the way a movie is cut and if they ever do a film, it should require limited.
  • The PC/Mac war. You know how the synopsis mentions Babbage and Lovelace? Yep.
  • The little classic literature references sprinkled throughout. Obviously, Professor Moriarty exists in this world, but you may also see nods to Frankenstein and some other literary/historical figures.
  • There are a couple of really fun plot twists. I'd tell you what they are, but that would be spoiling things. ;)
  • I feel like the author worked to make a strong female character who had flaws. Octavia isn't impossibly capable, but nor is she a constant damsel in distress with nothing to contribute. All the characters veered into caricature territory at one point or another, but it was usually in good fun.

What I Didn't Like:

  • The way we fly through the story is great for the action/adventure/mystery, but it takes away from the character development. Not that they are two dimensional, but I felt like I got a cursory overview of the two leads at the beginning and then tiny changes here and there. The biggest developments seem to come all at once in the end.
  • The villains. You have these extra creepy/powerful guys, and we just don't get enough time with them. And when we finally do, they are rather easily dispatched.
  • I didn't really connect with any of the characters. I enjoyed the plot, but I felt more like an observer than a fully engaged participant in the story.

Final Thoughts:
If you're looking for a serious, deep, philosophical, character-driven novel with a steampunk setting, keep moving. If, however, you're looking for a quick, fun ride through an awesome steampunk London, give The Lazarus Machine a shot. It's entertaining, and I'll definitely be checking out the next book. And not just because the publisher gave me a copy. ;) The conspiracies and twists unveiled at the end of the book left plenty of fodder for the next adventure.


  1. There are a hundred books in steampunk like this one, many pretty entertaining. A boy, a girl, and a strange Victorian England. None are deep, but good for a bit of diversion.

    1. Yep, not too deep, but it made for a good summer read. :) I do hope it switches things up and becomes more character-driven in future volumes.

  2. This sounds very odd and very awesome. ;) So . . . Moriarty exists. Please tell me there's some references to Sherlock Holmes? A quip about him not existing? Moriarty defeated him after all? Something?

    1. There are indeed references to Sherlock. A couple of literary characters are real people in this world.

  3. I've been in such a mood for light and fun adventure lately, so this definitely looks great for that. I, of course, absolutely adore plot twists and strong female characters, so I think it might be time to go find a copy *runs away with grabby hands*

    1. This is definitely light and fun, so get thee to a library/bookstore and make with the grabby hands! :)

  4. I like the sound of the quick fun ride, so I think this would definitely still be for me.

    1. Awesome! I think you'll enjoy the world/tech. :)

  5. I've seen several mixed reviews of this book. The lack of connection with characters would be a major problem for me. But the Victorian setting, fast pace and strong female characters is a win. Sometimes I want fun books that aren't stressful so I'll keep this in mind for when I want something like that.

    1. Being held at arm's length from the story was a little frustrating until I settled in for the ride, but the lack of emotional involvement does keep stress away. Of course, if you don't like the setting and/or plot, it could also prevent you from liking the book, but that's a minor detail. :)