Homunculus and Lord Kelvin’s Machine are very different in many ways, but they also have much in common. The first book is a wandering, deliberately confusing tale involving mysterious persons and devices with unknown functions and purposes. The second is a fairly straightforward narrative. Both are clearly satirical.
Both books, from the outset, blur the distinctions between fantasy and science fiction. Narbondo is described both as a scientist and as a wizard. Apparently, scientific principles are used to reanimate the dead. A man who makes his legitimate income constructing toys devises a perpetual motion machine. Lord Kelvin, a real historical figure of importance in the scientific world, creates a time machine.
Scientific principles that are patently ridiculous are brought into play, without any real explanation. The hollow earth theory was never taken seriously by scientists, and even if it were, the prospect of plugging volcanoes on one side of the earth to make others erupt is nonsensical because there are volcanoes all over the planet. In addition, there was no evidence in 1870, nor is there now, that gravity is a form of magnetic attraction.
The characters in both books are stereotyped. Narbondo, the mad scientist, is a hunchback. Shiloh, the evangelist, is an old man with a white beard and is hopelessly insane. Captain Powers seems to have stepped into Homunculus from Herman Melvill’es...
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