Tuesday, October 11, 2011

All Men of Genius - Lev AC Rosen


About the book

Inspired by two of the most beloved works by literary masters, All Men of Genius takes place in an alternate Steampunk Victorian London, where science makes the impossible possible.
 
Violet Adams wants to attend Illyria College, a widely renowned school for the most brilliant up-and-coming scientific minds, founded by the late Duke Illyria, the greatest scientist of the Victorian Age. The school is run by his son, Ernest, who has held to his father’s policy that the small, exclusive college remain male-only. Violet sees her opportunity when her father departs for America. She disguises herself as her twin brother, Ashton, and gains entry.

But keeping the secret of her sex won’t be easy, not with her friend Jack’s constant habit of pulling pranks, and especially not when the duke’s young ward, Cecily, starts to develop feelings for Violet’s alter ego, “Ashton.” Not to mention blackmail, mysterious killer automata, and the way Violet’s pulse quickens whenever the young duke, Ernest (who has a secret past of his own), speaks to her. She soon realizes that it’s not just keeping her secret until the end of the year faire she has to worry about: it’s surviving that long.

416 pages (hardcover)
Published on: September 27, 2011
Published by: Tor
Author’s webpage

Thanks to Tor for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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All Men of Genius seems to be getting a lot of positive attention from steampunk fans, which is good seeing as how this is the ultimate steampunk book complete with killer automatons and incredible mechanical inventions. Set in Victorian England, Lev A.C. Rosen mixes Victorian ideals, feminism and mad science to create this hugely entertaining steampunk success.

All Men of Genius is charming, funny and thoughtful and Rosen seems to somehow find the perfect balance for that. Quaint Victorian ideals and manners will charm readers from the start. However, where many people get tired of Victorian tropes and their typical gender roles, Rosen shakes it up a bit with a challenge of the traditional gender roles that truly shakes up all preconceived Victorian ideals. This challenge to traditional gender roles breathes fresh air into an otherwise overdone and stale time period.

Rosen also fills his book with plenty of mad, almost over-the-top, science. Imagination is the only boundary with the science that fills the pages of All Men of Genius. This gives the book a lighthearted, imaginative and often times funny aspect in spite of the more serious plot points. Where Rosen’s science could easily get campy and overdone, the author strikes a good balance with his science and his more serious elements discussed above.

The characters also deserve mention, if not for their names alone. The author seems to set his cast apart by their names. While the main characters have rather droll names like Violet, Ashton and Jack, Rosen used his Victorian time period to name his secondary cast with names like Bunburry. The antagonist has a rather dark sounding name, as well. These names really set the tone and atmosphere of the times and characters in a subtle, yet noticeable way. Thus, the cast of All Men of Genius can often come across as rather quaint and charming based on their names alone.

All Men of Genius is quick moving and, because of it’s rather charming qualities, absorbing. The plot itself is fairly predictable, and I think anyone reading the book will probably be able to guess the ending at least two hundred pages in advance, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. All Men of Genius is one of those books people will read to be entertained, and it has entertaining qualities in spades. The dialogue alone is filled with quippy one-liners that will make you laugh. The plot is so off the wall in part and the science is so extreme and imaginative that some might read it for those aspects alone. Not to mention the quick moving, yet action packed plot.

Despite all of the good aspects of this book, there are some negative. The characters do come off as a bit two-dimensional in parts and some of the dialogue, despite being very well done for the most part, does come off as rather uncomfortable and stilted and can break the overall flow of the book. While this book is fast paced and quickly moving through odd circumstances and happenings, I did, on occasion, feel that the plot focused a bit too much on romantic interests and not enough on kill automaton, for example.

All Men of Genius is a book that steampunk fans should run to the bookstore to pick up. It’s a fun, not too serious romp through Victorian London. Rosen fills his pages with incredible mad science, Victorian manners and even a bit of challenging traditional gender roles. The plot is incredibly fast paced and peppered with some great one-liners in the dialogue. Despite the fact that the plot is pretty predictable, and some of the characters suffer from a little two-dimensionality, All Men of Genius is such an entertaining, fast paced and atmospheric read that I doubt any of the flaws will matter to readers. All Men of Genius is a rare find. It strikes the perfect balance between the wacky and the serious all the while speeding readers through incredible events. It’s an absorbing read, well worth checking out.

4/5 stars

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