Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Dead Gentleman

The Dead Gentleman
by Matthew Cody
Knopf, 2011. 280 pgs. Science Fiction.

Tommy Learner is a cutpurse in turn of the century New York, but when he tries to steel from a rich gent in an elegant carriage he discovers the "gentleman" to be a corpselike remnant of a man, with dried skin hanging from an eyeless skull. Tommy barely escapes with his life--and with a beautiful mechanical bird the Dead Gentleman will do anything to reclaim. When Tommy is saved from certain death by a Captain Scott of the Explorers' Society he becomes his protege and is soon dangerously involved in trying to keep icky things from coming through multiple portals into our world from other worlds. As the story begins, Tommy is lured into and then trapped in the basement of the Percy Hotel. One hundred years later, Jezebel Lemon sees him--or his ghost--and the game's afoot again. Matthew Cody's steampunk/time-travel adventure has lots of excitement, but a good deal of confusion as well. Tommy soon drops any semblance of being a boy of the early twentieth century, slinging contractions and references to falling on his butt with the easy facility of a modern-day child. Perhaps worse, he refers to one small personage as a "munchkin," in 1900, the very year of the first publication of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Tommy admits to being no reader. In addition, the story is all over the map, not to mention the time/space continuum, told in first person (Tommy) and third-person (Jezebel's story). Confusing an annoyingly anomalous to an adult, The Dead Gentleman, may yet appeal to children because it is an exciting, action-packed, a little bit scary story that young people may be more willing to work their way through than their elders are. The cover art is delicious, too.

No comments: