The Lazarus Machine – Paul Crilley

About the Book 

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.

280 pages (hardcover)
Published on November 6, 2012
Published by Pyr
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

You can purchase a copy of this book by clicking on the following links: The Lazarus Machine: A Tweed & Nightingale Adventure (Tweed & Nightingale Adventures), Lazarus Machine, The (A Tweed & Nightingale Adventure): 1


I seem to be running across steampunk books more and more, which is odd seeing as how I’m not a gigantic fan of the genre. That being said, I’ll pretty much read anything that’s sent to me and if it’s even somewhat interesting, I’m all the more likely to finish it. So people send me steampunk and I think, “meh… steampunk” and I read it anyway. I generally end up enjoying these books more than I thought I would, which is always a pleasant surprise.

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. The use of this time period and the stories many authors set in it is starting to be a slight pet peeve of mine. This seems to be the time period steampunk authors fall back on when writing, and honestly, I’m getting a little sick of it. Not because the time period isn’t interesting, but because authors either tend to really pull it off well…. Or not. Furthermore, most books set in this time period seem to draw much of their inspiration from Sherlock Holmes. That’s fine, but it’s starting to feel a little been-there-done-that for my taste.

Crilley, for the most part, pulls this time period off well, despite the Holmsian feel to it. 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 a ton of history behind the creation of all of his devices and the steampunk world they inhabit. These two points put together make the events that happen in this book feel like they could happen 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 kind of 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 rather captivating, and despite my issues with the believability of their dialogue, Crilley uses them to keep a fast paced, rather serious plot rather light with some of their banter.

Characters themselves varied in believability. While the main protagonists, Sebastian, Octavia and others are believable, witty and realistically flawed, Crilley fell into the pit that so many authors unfortunately fall into. The antagonists were so purely evil 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 pain-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 to be released. 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. 

3/5 stars

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