fantasy and science fiction book reviews

The Lazarus Machine by Paul CrilleyThe Lazarus Machine by Paul Crilley

The Lazarus Machine hooked me at first because I really like the title. I mean, come on, that’s just a cool title. The Lazarus Machine is a young adult steampunk set in the late 1800’s in an alternative Earth. Paul Crilley, for the most part, pulls this time period off well, despite the Sherlock Holmes feel (which is starting to feel a little been-there-done-that for my taste). The book starts out with interesting steampunk inventions. There are steam powered computers, automatons powered by captured souls, steam carriages and the like. Many readers will be absolutely captivated by all that Crilley has created in his steampunk alternative earth.

However, once the story gets going, small problems arise. For example, in this Victorian-esque setting, many of the characters’ dialogue is a bit too modern for the time. Secondly, Crilley doesn’t present much history behind the creation of all of his devices and the steampunk world they inhabit. These two points put together make the plot feel like it could have happened in any historical time period. That being said, The Lazarus Machine is enjoyable enough that those details could easily be overlooked.

The Lazarus Machine is fairly short, which makes it a quick read. Therefore, while it does contain some world building problems, you have to hand it to Crilley for creating such a fascinating, unique (even for steampunk) world in such a short span of time. Furthermore, the characters are captivating, and despite my issues with the believability of their dialogue, Crilley uses their light banter to lighten up a fast paced, serious plot.

Characters themselves vary in believability. While the main protagonists, Sebastian, Octavia and others are believable, witty and realistically flawed, the antagonists were so purely evil that they were unbelievable, two dimensional and almost laughable. When I really examined the plot, I realized that it is fairly drab and predictable. There’s the Super Evil Dude, and the unlikely band of protagonists who have to rise out of the ashes to fight said Bad Man. The plot follows all of the paint-by-number twists and turns that such plots commonly do.

This disappointed me quite a bit because Crilley did so many things right. The plot is fast moving, the world is thought out and well built, especially in the time frame the author gave himself to do all of that. The characters are funny, engaging and full of their own believable flaws. Then, in contrast to all of that, you have this unbelievable antagonist and the plot pays dearly for it.

Crilley nicely ties up most plot points in The Lazarus Machine while leaving enough hanging that fans will anxiously wait for the next book in the series. There’s a lot here to like. Crilley establishes himself as a good author with a flair for world building and character development. That being said, the world itself could have used a bit more historical background, and the unfortunate cookie-cutter bad guy dragged the plot down into a predictable pit that it could have easily avoided. All in all, The Lazarus Machine is a good effort that will delight many readers, while leaving others, like myself, feeling a little disappointed.

Tweed & Nightingale Adventures — (2012-2013) Publisher: 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 it takes 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, Tweed 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.


  • Sarah Chorn

    SARAH CHORN, one of our regular guest reviewers, has been a compulsive reader her whole life, and early on found her reading niche in the fantastic genre of Speculative Fiction. She blames her active imagination for the hobbies that threaten to consume her life. She is a published photographer, world traveler and recent college graduate and mother. Sarah keeps a blog at Bookworm Blues.