Further Adventures
Created by ggrihn on 9/23/2016 11:58:46 AM

The Further Adventures of Langdon St. Ives, by James P. Blaylock. Illustrated by J. K. Potter

Reviewed by Gregory G. H. Rihn, Steampunk Chronicle Literary Editor

Any new Steampunk work by James P. Blaylock, one of the pioneers of the genre, is worth of close scrutiny. The Further Adventures of Langdon St. Ives is a collection of five short works, written between 2009 and 2016. In Blaylock's Steampunk Britain, Langdon St. Ives* is, at least in the eyes of his stalwart henchman, Jack Owlesby, the foremost scientist and adventurer, although sadly unappreciated by Her Majesty's Government and the public at large. Nevertheless, when a scientific mystery calls, St. Ives unfailingly answers.

The first two, earliest written stories, "The Ebb Tide," and "The Affair of the Chalk Cliffs," are disappointingly formulaic: St. Ives squares off against his nemesis, the criminal Dr. Israel Narbondo, a.k.a. Hilario Frosticos. Narbondo typically plays three moves ahead of our intrepid heroes, and they succeed in foiling him only by a combination of luck, stubbornness, and a large capacity for absorbing physical abuse. Of course, Narbondo escapes to scheme another day.

If the whole book were like this, it would be dull. Fortunately, it is salvaged by the latter three stories, "The Adventure of the Ring of Stones," "The Here-and-Therians," and "Earthbound Things." In revisiting the world of St. Ives, Blaylock casts off the harness of formula, and gives freer rein to the wonderful weirdness he can bring forth at his best. "The Adventure of the Ring of Stones" portrays at its climax one of the most striking Steampunk images I recall, which also links with classic and modern "monster" cinema. "The Here-and-Therians" is just charmingly odd, but puts St. Ives into serious danger. "Earthbound Things" begins with the discovery of a waterfall falling out of the air over the English countryside, that leads to a startling (and, to the reader, amusing) discovery.

St. Ives is an interesting character, partly in that, unlike many Victorian heroes, he has a wife, children, and a home life, which become important in the later stories, sometimes critically so. The revitalized St. Ives makes enjoyable reading for fans of the genre.

*St. Ives is the hero of Homunculus, The Aylesford Skull, Lord Kelvin's Machine, and Beneath London.

The Further Adventures of Langdon St. Ives at Amazon

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