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The Aylesford Skull [Mass Market Paperback]

James P. Blaylock
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 4.83
Price: 4.81 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

31 Mar 2015
It is the summer of 1883 and Professor Langdon St. Ives - brilliant but eccentric scientist and explorer - is at home in Aylesford with his family. However, a few miles to the north a steam launch has been taken by pirates above Egypt Bay; the crew murdered and pitched overboard. In Aylesford itself a grave is opened and possibly robbed of the skull. The suspected grave robber, the infamous Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, is an old nemesis of Langdon St. Ives. 

When Dr. Narbondo returns to kidnap his four-year-old son Eddie and then vanishes into the night, St. Ives and his factotum Hasbro race to London in pursuit... 

The first new steampunk novel in over twenty years from one of the genre's founding fathers!

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Titan Books (UK) (31 Mar 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781167605
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781167601
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,419,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"Praise for James P. Blaylock: "

"A singular American fabulist." - William Gibson, author of "The Difference Engine"

"Blaylock is a magician!" - Michael Swanwick

"Blaylock's prose is so rich it literally sings!" - Charles de Lint

"Blaylock is better than anyone else at showing us the magic that secretly animates our world..." - Tim Powers, author of "On Stranger Tides"

"While many recent novels have picked up the steampunk banner, this one fully delivers, offering action, farce, tender relationships, and prose full of genuine Victorian cadence and flavor." - "Publishers Weekly" [on "The Affair of the Chalk Cliffs"] --Publishers Weekly

"Airships, pirates, magic, I was hooked from page one and hated to see the adventure end. I loved the cliff-hanger chapters that forced you to come back for more. All in all it is an excellent book and I enjoyed every minute of it." --Gnostalgia

"The cover says, Steampunk Legend under [Blaylock] s name. Trust me, it s a well-earned accolade." --SciFiFX

"St. Ives has to be one of the most fleshed out Victorian characters ever written, and I m sincerely hoping that Blaylock isn t finished with this scientist adventurer. The Aylesford Skull can easily stand alone without any knowledge of Blaylock s previous steampunk stories, but you ll want to hunt down additional St. Ives tales, I m for certain." --Wired.com

"The plot of the book is a joyride through Victorian London, taking in all the grandness, wonder, depravity, and utter hopelessness that makes that time and place so endlessly fascinating." --Geek Smash

"Sure to be one of the most delightful works of fiction you read this year." --Team Hellions

"Blaylock is an extraordinary writer. This rollicking steampunk adventure showcases his excellent prose. Likeable characters, a vile villain and an imaginative setting makes this book into a must-read for lovers of steampunk literature...it s headed the way of the steampunk classic." --Punkettes<br /
"It s riveting, heart-wrenching, and magical." --Speak Geeky To Me review

"Had me literally sitting on the edge of my seat." --Best Geek Blog Ever

"It's a fast, rich and thoughtful thriller that is as different as it is clever and as bold as it is beautiful." --SF Book Review

"This is steampunk at full power and it s a heady, thrilling read as a result." --SFX Online Review

With lots of action, skulduggery and foolhardy bravery, this is an old-fashioned romp. --Fortean Times

"Blaylock throws in all the furniture of the genre: derring-do and cliffhangers, a vivid portrayal of Victorian London, a gallery of grotesque characters and the obligatory airship, but the strength of the novel is his rendering of St Ives caught between his love of the chase and his commitment to family. --Guardian Review

"Strong on mystery, horror, steampunk elements, and fantasy, you couldn t ask for a better read." --Geek Mundo

"This is a story full of twists, humour and action. There s something for everybody." --Trash Mutant --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

James P Blaylock is one of the founding fathers of modern steampunk along with fellow writers and friends Tim Powers and K.W. Jeter. He has won the World Fantasy and Philip K. Dick Awards. Blaylock lives in Orange CA with his wife, they have two sons. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic romp through a Steampunk London 2 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback
I received a free copy of 'The Aylesford Skull' from the publisher through a giveaway on Goodreads.com.

Although this is actually the seventh novel in the 'Langdon St Ives' series, it is the first of James P Blaylock's novels that I've come across. It is also the first full length Steampunk novel I've read.

Under usual circumstances, I would never consider reading a novel that far into a series when I haven't read all of the previous instalments. However, I was just so intrigued by the premise of this book that I couldn't resist. The blurb proclaimed

It is the summer of 1883 and Professor Langdon St. Ives - brilliant but eccentric scientist and explorer - is at home in Aylesford with his family. However, a few miles to the north a steam launch has been taken by pirates above Egypt Bay; the crew murdered and pitched overboard. In Aylesford itself a grave is opened and possibly robbed of the skull. The suspected grave robber, the infamous Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, is an old nemesis of Langdon St. Ives.

When Dr. Narbondo returns to kidnap his four-year-old son Eddie and then vanishes into the night, St. Ives and his factotum Hasbro race to London in pursuit...

Who could resist that kind of plot? Not me. So I got stuck in, determined not to let the fact that I had no prior knowledge of the characters taint my reading. And I'm glad I did. I can honestly say that you don't need to know anything at all about St Ives or his nemesis Narbondo before you open the book. Everything you need to know you can pick up in the pages of 'The Aylesford Skull'. Important plot points from previous novels are referenced well, without going into overly-done flashback mode and I really didn't feel as though I'd missed out on too much background information.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little outdated but still a cracker 27 Jan 2013
By Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
OK, I'm coming at this as a newbie to the writing of James P Blaylock, and whilst I know he's been established as a Steampunk author for many years, I was a little apprehensive to pick up this book as I wasn't sure what to expect. Yes I expected a mystery, some cracking twists which when blended with the Victoriana would take me on one hell of a journey but when an author hasn't released for so many years, you have to wonder how well he knows the current audience and if his writing will translate as well as it did originally.

What I received within this book was a highly imaginative story, some cracking fully fledged characters and a tale that really delivered what I was hoping for, yet for all that I have to say that for me, I found it quite hard to get into as the writing style felt a little outdated for my own personal tastes.

Don't get me wrong it's definitely a strong book, the twists will more than satisfy and if you love Steampunk its going to more than hit the spot, but when you get a writing style that is hard to follow until you get used to the way the authors prose comes across, it's going to be a story that is going to take some time to get behind. All round, a cracking title but please remember to stick with it as otherwise you'll be missing something special.
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4.0 out of 5 stars the aylesford skull 1 April 2013
By peejay
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
although i was aware i wasn't reading a sherlock holmes novel with moriarty as the main protagonist i just could not get both characters out of my mind . apart from that i found this a very enjoyable read. the descriptions of a bygone london were very vivid. i would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a chase novel with lots of different & interesting characters &a really exciting& fast paced ending. read it& enjoy////////.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Rip-Roaring Steampunk Adventure 15 Jan 2013
By M. Mierendorf - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Steampunk! Strap on your goggles, grab your ferret and fill up your zeppelin with hydrogen, because it's time to read The Aylesford Skull, the latest of James P. Blaylock's novels featuring his popular protagonist Langdon St. Ives.

St. Ives is described on the jacket as "brilliant but eccentric," though in practice he comes off as Sherlock Holmes without the flaws: his brilliance is the same MacGyver-type encyclopedic knowledge of whatever's needed in the current situation. We don't see too much of his "eccentricity," aside from his taste for ADVENTURE! and a fondness for gadgetry. All in all, he's a bland protagonist who's good for moving the plot forward but isn't too terribly interesting otherwise.

His archnemesis, the infamous Doctor Ignatio Narbondo, suffers from the same problem. His name is the most interesting thing about him, though to be fair it is an excellent name. Dr. Narbondo's modus operandi is the same throughout the book: bribe someone, then betray and kill them. Apparently none of London's criminal underground have heard about the Dr. Narbondo Retirement Package, though, because this trick keeps working over and over again. Come to think of it, how would they have heard of it? It's not like Narbondo has any ex-employees. A job for Narbondo is a job for life.

The book suffers from these shallow characterizations, which is a shame because the plot is rip-roaring. Within the first fifty pages we have a pirate attack, an attempted poisoning, a grave robbing, a murder, a bombing, a sewer chase, and the appearance of a ghost. Yes, a ghost. Though "steampunk" is usually considered a subgenre of science fiction, Blaylock weaves several supernatural elements into his plot, chiefly the titular skull. It adds an interesting wrinkle to his alternate England, but does make St. Ives look a bit silly by the end. He keeps insisting on "rational explanations" for these supernatural events after he's encountered multiple ghosts and enlisted the aid of a psychic.

The book keeps up the pace throughout, building up to an intense, exciting climax followed by an abrupt and disappointing cop-out of an ending. Barely-a-spoiler alert: Narbondo is undone by his own villainy. I know! My shocked gasp sent my monocle flying across the room.

In general, it's impossible to spoil this book because it does nothing you haven't seen before a thousand times. The minute St. Ives climbs into his rickety airship you know that thing's going to crash into something. Every time Narbondo walks into a room you know somebody's getting killed within three pages. That said, it does do old stuff well. The pacing is breakneck, and though the book's a little longer than the plot requires, it's a fun, lightweight read.

The Aylesford Skull won't surprise you, but if you're a fan of this type of genre fiction you're not looking to be surprised. You're looking to read about a man firing incendiary bullets at a ghost made of coal dust to turn it into a walking bomb. And friend, you will not be disappointed.

-Andy North for Cultural Transmogrifier (a site I own and operate)
[...]
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun adventure 30 Jan 2013
By Laura - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
*Free copy offered by Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.*

I was first intrigued by the description, and the fact that it was a steampunk novel (I like steampunk). The book started out strong, with action almost from the first page. I liked the writing style, and I liked most of the characters that were introduced.

The book is a good adventure story, and aside from the adventure of it, there's also ghosts and necromancy, which is right up my alley, and I liked the way the supernatural elements of the story were weaved into the plot. I also liked that we got different perspectives from the different characters.

However, I felt that I was missing some backstory behind some of the characters, specifically between St. Ives and Narbondo. I understand that they are nemeses, and I know that without that aspect of their relationship in place there would be no plot (there would be no point in the kidnapping if there wasn't the drive for revenge on Narbondo's part), but the reason WHY they were nemeses was never really explained. It was touched on, and hinted at, but I didn't feel as though I got a really good explanation or history and that bothered me. I don't think it's a crucial aspect of it, and you don't really need it to enjoy the story, but I just kind of wished that I knew more about them.

While there were a lot of good scenes (and some scenes and lines that actually made me laugh-mostly involving St. Ives's friend Tubby, who was actually one of my favorite characters) I also felt that it dragged in places. I actually felt that quite a few scenes with St. Ives were the draggiest bits (except towards the end), and I enjoyed the scenes with Tubby and his comrades and Finn Conrad much more than the ones with St. Ives himself, which was a little disappointing considering that St. Ives is the main character.

All that being said though, I did really enjoy the book. It's a good book if you want something quick and fun to read-a "popcorn book" if you will. It's got good adventure elements and I think Blaylock did a good job with keeping the suspense and there were a lot of moments where I was on the edge of my seat wondering how it was going to turn out. The characters were well developed and I liked that there were some scenes from Narbondo's point of view.

So overall, I enjoyed the book, I think it's a fun adventure.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exciting Steampunk Thriller 16 Jan 2013
By VicG - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
James P. Blaylock in his new book, "The Aylesford Skull" a new book in Tale of Langdon St. Ives series published by Titan Books gives us the first new steampunk novel in over twenty years from one of the genre's founding fathers!

From the back cover: It is the summer of 1883 and Professor Langdon St. Ives - brilliant but eccentric scientist and explorer - is at home in Aylesford with his family. However, a few miles to the north a steam launch has been taken by pirates above Egypt Bay; the crew murdered and pitched overboard.

In Aylesford itself a grave is opened and possibly robbed of the skull. The suspected grave robber, the infamous Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, is an old nemesis of Langdon St. Ives.

When Dr. Narbondo returns to kidnap his four-year-old son Eddie and then vanishes into the night, St. Ives and his factotum Hasbro race to London in pursuit...

If you like science fiction then this book is for you. I have to admit I do not know much about this genre "Steampunk" however I do know and enjoy Jules Verne stories and Mr. Blaylock has captured quite a bit of what Mr. Verne used to put in his stories. What I am reminded of is "Master of the World" by Mr. Verne with his airship because Langdon St. Ives has an airship that he uses as we use a car. "The Aylesford Skull" is my first Langdon St. Ives thriller but I guarantee you this will not be my last. I like this character a lot and he kinda has a Sherlock Holmes atmosphere about him. Mr. Blaylock has given us a rip-rousing adventure yarn that will grab your attention and keep you flipping pages as fast as you can read them. A partial list of ingredients within "The Aylesford Skull" are a pirate attack, grave robbing, murder, a bombing, a chase in the sewers and an airship over London. This is an exciting book and I am sure you will enjoy this book as well.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Titan Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blaylock's Fusty "Skull" 20 Oct 2013
By Charles T. Riley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
James Blaylock has long been my favorite conjuror of a curious blend of action, adventure and spiritualism. His usual trip involves his readers with a tight narrative that draws them inexorably from a richly drawn mundane world, into rapidly deepening conflict between the mundane and the mystical. But, for me, "The Aylesford Skull" stutters along, regularly going tedious with seemingly endless Victorian conversations and feasts. Maybe James sought to translate his style into the restrictive forms of those 19th Century novels, creating a Blaylockian twist on "Sense and Sensibility." His Victoriana is acceptable, but his narrative verve is stalled by the stodginess he borrowed therefrom. "Skull" is too dry and trite for my tastes. Hopefully this Blaylock series will succeed with those fans lusting for remakes of the several motion pictures inspired by the Bronte sisters' novels.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Aylesford Skull (Tale of Langdon St. Ives) 18 Feb 2013
By Bob C. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A good read, but I found the antagonist to be too unrealistic a character, a bit too far over the edge.
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