I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started reading The Lazarus Machine by Paul Crilley, but I honestly did not have high hopes. The description mentioned Professor Moriarty from the wonderful books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and I was nervous The Lazarus Machine would just be a steampunk, young adult version of Sherlock Holmes. I am very happy to report that was not the case. I had this story finished in one night because I just could not stop reading.
Steampunk adventure for fans of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who. An alternate 1895… Where steam and Tesla-powered computers are everywhere. Where automatons powered by human souls venture out into the sprawling London streets. When Sebastian Tweed’s father is kidnapped by Professor 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.
I think what really grabbed my attention with The Lazarus Machine was the setting. Yes, it’s Victorian England and yes it’s steampunk, but Crilley manages to make this world his own. The inventions were very interesting and they did bring up a few ethical/moral issues. In Crilley’s world, it seems as if the more advanced machines, “automatons”, are still in the early phases and have not been perfected. In fact, there was no good way to power the automatons until someone decided to put a soul in one. Yep, a human soul. Crilley does go on to explain how it happened (fascinating!) but all throughout the book I kept wondering what happened to the souls when their machines broke. Or did they know what was going on? Or did they want to be there? I really hope Crilley answers some of these questions in his next book. The other machines were also fun to read about, too. It is all in how he presents them.
The detail/descriptiveness he uses was good but it did get bogged down in places. It seems as if Crilley wanted to make sure we see his creations just as he envisioned. Crilley’s world is fascinating but he made me see his version of the world instead of letting me use my imagination to interpret it myself. It didn’t turn me off but I did end up skipping a few of the descriptions to get to the good parts.
And speaking of good parts, any scene with the two main characters was great! Tweed and Octavia (I love their names) have such a great chemistry and I grinned every time they bantered. I will even admit to the occasional giggle. Tweed is logical, stubborn and has a plan while Octavia follows her gut, is even more stubborn than Tweed and rarely has a plan. They were both witty and sarcastic, and while they tried to see things from the other’s point of view they never quite managed it.
The secondary characters were just as much fun. Jenny and Carter were outrageous and I love how they helped Tweed but didn’t try and take over even though they are the adults. The villains were properly evil though I do wish there had been some elaboration on exactly who all the goons were and how they came to be so monster-like. And the real evil mastermind behind it all was a clever plot twist. I read the unveiling, then had to re-read it to make sure I wasn’t missing something.
The Lazarus Machine started off a bit straightforward. Tweed and Octavia had to find their missing parents but it quickly turned into a race to save the Empire. There were a few subplots but they didn’t grab my attention like I wished they would have. They lacked detail and I found myself impatiently reading through the setup for these sub-stories. Hopefully Crilley will be able to flesh them out in the sequel.
While The Lazarus Machine was not perfect it was a fun read. The characters made me giggle and there were plenty of plot twists to keep me entertained. The inventions were unique and brought a few points I kept thinking about long after I put the book down. I’m sad that I’m going to have to wait another year for the sequel. If you like steampunk you should definitely pick this book up!