Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Genre Character of the Week: Edward Mallory

Ahh, Science Fiction. After a month of focusing on Horror reimaginings, taking the time to read a book focused on the “What if?” rather than the “Who goes there?” is a great treat. One of the book club selections I read this month (I’m in two) was The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. The novel is an alternate history in which Victorian England has been transformed by the creation of Charles Babbages success in ushering in an era of working mechanical computers (in real life he did create many devices, but none that could work on the scale used in the novel). Although the book has three main character, the one I’ll be examining for this week is Edward “Leviathan” Mallory.

Why I really liked Ned Mallory in five words or less:

Ned Mallory, Paleontologist of Action

The novel itself begins by following a woman named Sylvia and ends following a spy/mystic named Laurence Oliphant, each of which get about ten percent of the story to themselves (Sylvia at the beginning at Laurence at the end). The majority of the book follows the adventures of Ned Mallory through the strange mechanical-computer based world of Victorian England. If I had to describe the style of writing, I would say the story works more as a series of vignettes than it does as a single narrative.

Mallory is a straight-forward man of action, who spends the majority of the novel caught up in dealings involving the highest levels of government and a number of cloak and dagger adventures. Although not quite a Steampunk-style Sherlock Holmes, I would say he was a Steampunk-style Alan Grant (even with the dinosaurs – sort of), in that he is a man of science required to be a man of action.

The book itself had a lot of references to Victorian England that simply went over my head (I was constantly using Wikipedia to see who all the supporting characters were in our timeline) but overall was a lot of fun, and like Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula (which was definitely more my cup of tea) introduced me to an alternate version of the era in a fun and unique fashion.

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