James P. Blaylock's Beneath London was published by Titan Books in June 2015.
Information about James P. Blaylock:
James P. Blaylock was born in Long Beach, California in 1950, and attended California State University, where he received an MA. He was befriended and mentored by Philip K. Dick, along with his contemporaries K. W. Jeter and Tim Powers, and is regarded – along with Powers and Jeter – as one of the founding fathers of the steampunk movement. Winner of two World Fantasy Awards and Philip K. Dick Award, he currently directs the creative writing programs at Chapman University. Blaylock lives in Orange CA with his wife. They have two sons.
Click here to visit the author's official website.
Information about Beneath London:
The collapse of the Victoria Embankment uncovers a passage to an unknown realm beneath the city. Langdon St. Ives sets out to explore it, not knowing that a brilliant and wealthy psychopathic murderer is working to keep the underworld's secrets hidden for reasons of his own.
St. Ives and his stalwart friends investigate a string of ghastly crimes: the gruesome death of a witch, the kidnapping of a blind, psychic girl, and the grim horrors of a secret hospital where experiments in medical electricity and the development of human, vampiric fungi, serve the strange, murderous ends of perhaps St. Ives's most dangerous nemesis yet.
A REVIEW OF JAMES P. BLAYLOCK'S BENEATH LONDON
James P. Blaylock's Beneath London is a charmingly old-fashioned adventure story about Langdon St. Ives and his adventures. It's part of the Langdon St. Ives series of novels and stories about a scientist and explorer called Langdon St. Ives and his friends and nemeses.
Before I write more about this novel and its contents, I'll mention that I'm a bit ashamed to admit that Beneath London is the first novel that I've ever read by James P. Blaylock. I've been aware of him and I know what kind of fiction he has written, but I've never read anything by him before this novel. I intend to rectify this soon, because I loved this novel and found it compelling.
Beneath London is a fantastic novel for readers who love good old-fashioned adventure stories with mystery elements. The author seems to be an excellent storyteller, because he has created a believable and charmingly steampunkish vision of Victorian era England without resorting to clichéd storytelling.
This novel has all kinds of elements from fantasy, science fiction and horror to mystery and steampunk. It's an excellent blend of many elements that together form a highly entertaining story for adult readers (the author combines speculative fiction, historical fiction and mystery fiction in a perfect way). It has everything one could possibly hope for in an entertaining speculative fiction novel: good story, intriguing mysteries, paranormal elements and fascinating characters.
Here's information about the story:
- Beaumont travels beneath London and finds a man who's been caught by the giant mushrooms. Soon he makes his way out of the caves and is employed by the mysterious and dangerous Mr. Klingheimer, who has diabolical plans...
- Langdon St. Ives is being asked by Mother Laswell to visit Sarah Wright, because she thinks that something bad may have happened to Sarah. When he goes to Sarah's cottage, he finds a headless corpse inside the cottage and begins to investigate what has happened. Soon afterwards Sarah's psychic daughter, Clara, is kidnapped...
- Langdon St. Ives travels to London to meet his old friend, Gilbert Frobisher. Together, they intend to explore the sink-hole that has been uncovered by the collapse of the Victoria Enbankment...
This is the beginning of a thrilling story that takes readers on a rewarding journey into slightly alternate Victorian era England.
I have to confess that I was honestly astounded by this novel and its entertainment values. When I began to read it, I didn't expect to like it as much as I did, but I soon found myself glued to the story and was unable to stop reading it until I reached the final page. It's been a while since I've read as entertaining and gripping a novel as this one.
Beneath London has plenty of freshness and originality, which makes it stand out among other steampunk novels (in my opinion, too many steampunk novels lack freshness). James P. Blaylock has used well-known elements to his advantage and has managed to write a story that is genuinely intriguing and entertaining.
James P. Blaylock fluently weaves different strands together and delivers a highly entertaining story to his readers. The paths of Langdon St. Ives and Mr. Klingheimer converge in an interesting way as the story progresses. I won't reveal what happens at the end of the story, but I'm sure that it'll please and satisfy readers.
The characters in this novel are well-portrayed and each of them is interesting. The author writes so well and convicingly about the characters that you can easily believe that you're reading about actual persons and not characters. This is something that only a handful of steampunk authors have been able to achieve in their novels. One of the reasons why I seldom read steampunk novels is the lack of good characterisation. Fortunately, in this novel, the characterisation works perfectly, as does the character interaction.
I was positively surprised by the amount of colourful characters, because the author had created many interesting characters. All of them had their own characteristics and traits that made them memorable.
Here's a bit of information about some of the characters:
- Langdon St. Ives is a scientist and an explorer who is slightly reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes.
- Alice is Langdon St. Ives's wife. She's interested in fishing. She has quite a formidable temper when necessary.
- Gilbert Frobisher is a good friend of Langdon St. Ives. He's a retired steel magnate and captain of industry.
- Harriet Laswell (Mother Laswell) is a neighbour of Langdon St. Ives. She has a deep understanding of the paranormal.
- Clara Wright is a blind psychic girl who can sense things. Although she is blind, she's able to see, but not in a normal way.
- Finn is a fifteen-year-old boy who is attracted to Clara.
- Mr. Klingheimer is an interesting and intelligent villain. He's a classic evil villain who is both intelligent and wicked. (He's one of the best villains ever to appear on the pages of speculative fiction novels.)
- Beaumont the Dwarf has suffered a lot because of his appearance. His father taught him many things about the caves beneath the city.
Langdon St. Ives's adventures in the underground caves beneath London are very entertaining. His exploration of these caves is one of the best things about this novel, because the author writes fascinatingly about his travels and findings beneath the city.
The author's descriptions of the underworld are beautiful and vivid. There was a certain sense of strangeness to his descriptions that intrigued me very much. I was slightly reminded of certain scenes in H. P. Lovecraft's "The Rats in the Walls" when I read about how the protagonist descended into the underworld and explored new areas.
I enjoyed reading about how Finn tried to save the kidnapped Clara. It was interesting to read about what happened to Finn, because the author wrote fluently about how much Finn cared for Clara and wanted to save her. What happened between Beaumont, Finn and Clara was handled well.
There are many elements in this novel that will intrigue fans of dark fantasy and horror fiction. I enjoyed reading about how diabolical Mr. Klingheimer was and what kind of interests he had. He was a ruthless man who used experiments in medical electricity, brain surgery and vampiric mushrooms to further his own ends.
Mr. Klingheimer's fascination with medical experiments and brain surgery allowed the author to explore the medical and scientific horrors of the Victorian era. I was impressed by the author's way of writing about these issues, because he didn't shy away from difficult and terrifying material.
Elysium Asylum, the madhouse and surgical hospital, is a foreboding place in this novel. The author's descriptions of this asylum are excellent. He perfectly describes what kind of a place it is and how patients are treated there, because he writes about the macabre procedures and scientific experiments that are carried out on the patients. It was interesting to read about how the operating theater was occasionally visited upon invitation by men and women who were willing to pay a considerable sum to be enlightened or entertained. Dr. Peavy, the owner of the asylum, was interested in experimenting with brains and electricity.
The author writes fascinatingly about the underground fungi that differ from normal fungi. The luminescent mushrooms that paralysed their prey were interesting mushrooms. Their fluids were capable of sustaining life and if a person was caught by them, it was impossible to escape, because they paralysed the person. Animals and persons caught by them suffered a living death.
I haven't read any of the previous Langdon St. Ives novels yet, but from what I've heard of their contents, I gather that Dr. Ignacio Narbondo has been a nemesis of Langdon St. Ives. If there are any readers out there who wonder about the fate of Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, I can mention that his fate is revealed in this novel. He is featured in the story, but not in the way that you'd expect.
One of the best things about this novel is that James P. Blaylock has added humour to it. He has a good sense of humour and knows how to entertain readers with clever and intelligent humour. This adds a nice touch of style to the story and lightens the atmosphere in a nice way.
The story flows effortlessly and engagingly from the beginning all the way to the end, and the prose is good. The author manages to keep the story from slipping into mediocre and predictable steampunk story by writing captivatingly about the happenings and the characters, and by adding paranormal elements to the story. He delivers a few surprises along the way and makes sure that his readers are fascinated by what's going on.
I sincerely hope that James P. Blaylock will continue to write more about Langdon St. Ives and his adventures, because this kind of entertainment is perfect escapism for all who enjoy reading old-fashioned adventure and mystery stories. I intend to read the author's previous Langdon St. Ives novels as soon as possible, because I want to know what has happened in them.
I was so impressed by this novel that I give it strong five stars for its excellent story and entertainment values. I seldom give five stars to steampunk novels, but in this case I'll do so, because the story is very entertaining and gripping.
If you're a fan of steampunk stories, you should put Beneath London immediately to your reading list. It's the best kind of entertainment available for readers who enjoy reading steampunk stories, because it has plenty of old-fashioned charm and many colourful characters. I also highly recommend it to readers who love well written stories, because it's one of the best novels of the year. It's first-rate entertainment and enjoyment from start to finish, and it provides readers a good dose of escapism.