Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bookanistas: ALL MEN OF GENIUS by Lev AC Rosen

Plot without spoilers...Since the author acknowledges two plays (Oscar Wilde's THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST and Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT) as his inspirations, it's not spoiling anything to reveal that Violet Adams disguises herself as a young man so that she can gain admission to the illustrious London science academy, Illyria. Once there, Violet's attraction for the headmaster, and son of the school's founder, Ernest; her growing friendship with Ernest's ward, Cecily; and her involvement in intrigues of romantic, scientific and even criminal natures, drive this complex and delightful novel forward.

Of literary interest...One might think that the rigors of tying a plot to two iconic stage plays would constrain an author's use of imagery.  However, chapter after chapter, Rosen delivers unique, pithy and elegant turns of phrase. I found myself rereading passages with delight. Here is one favorite but honestly, I could open to almost any page:
Violet was stunned by the Crystal Palace. She has seen it in pictures, of course, but to have it looming over her, like a sky of diamond, and to be in it as it was filled with people, fountains, trees, flowers, exhibits, and a faint, indescribable perfume like rosewater, incense and ice. And to have her invention here among it all!  It was enough to make the mechanics of her body stop, and to pause the machinery of her soul.

Finally, just gotta say...ALL MEN OF GENIUS is a steampunk novel, set in an alternate London. I am not generally a steampunk reader but this book won me over with its fearless treatment of themes such as sexism, socio-economic discrimination, and the perils of using science to "make a better human."

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