Monday, November 18, 2013
The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming
Published December 2009 by Penguin Group
Source: this is my audio copy
After discovering an old photograph, an elderly antiques dealer living in present-day Los Angeles is forced to revisit the history he has spent years trying to deny. The photograph depicts a man and a woman. The man is Peter Force, a young frontier adventurer who comes to New York City in 1901 and quickly finds a job digging the first subway tunnels beneath the metropolis. The woman is Cheri-Anne Toledo, a beautiful mathematical prodigy whose memories appear to come from another world. The two meet seemingly by chance, and at first Peter dismisses her tales about a vanished Kingdom of Ohio as pure fantasy - but as events progress, he begins to suspect that nothing happens by accident. When the two are drawn into a tangle of overlapping intrigues involving some of the most famous figures of the era, Peter is forced to reexamine Cheri-Anne's fantastic story, and to confront the possibility that the woman he is falling in love with has discovered the dangerous secret to changing the fabric of the past. Against the electric, mazelike streets and tunnels of New York City at the beginning of the mechanical age, Peter and Cheri-Anne find themselves wrestling with the nature of history, technology, and the unfolding of time itself.
I have a pretty big "comfort" zone and I'm never afraid to step out of it. Even so, books about time travel are generally so far out of my time zone, I rarely pick one up.
I'm rarely disappointed by a book that's brought to my attention by NPR. This one disappointed me. It was all over the place. We learn about Peter's past, we learn about Cheri-Anne's past and the entire history of of her family and the mythical Kingdom of Ohio, we move forward to meet the antiques dealer. But we rarely actually have characters moving back-and-forth in time. Which was, I believe, the point of the story. Maybe I would have enjoyed the story more if it had focused on that and on the battle between Thomas Edison (and his financial backer, J. P. Morgan) and Nicolas Tesla.
I don't think I can even adequately put into words how much I disliked the narration when it came to Cheri-Anne's voice. McLaren is fine with most of the rest of the book but a female voice with an accent was beyond his capabilities.
The love story between Peter and Cheri-Anne is truly meant to be at the heart of the story but there again, Flaming's story fell short for me. It may have had something to do with the narration. I, of course, found her voice so annoying it was hard to imagine anyone wanting to be in the same room, let alone fall in love with her.
Undoubtedly, if I had read this book in print, I never would have finished it. I almost gave it up anyway. In the end, I wish I would have.