When speaking about The Man Without Qualities Milan Kundera, the great Czech writer, said that it was a novel that he admired a great deal, except for it’s great unfinished length. He compared to the book to a string quartet that lasted for twelve hours, and a castle so big that you couldn’t see it all at once. I am not so audacious as to compare The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy by Jacobo dellla Quercia to the aforementioned novel, but the above quote popped into my mind when I thought of how I would review TGALPWC, (forgive the abbreviation, but the title is just too long to keep using), so stick with me for a while.
This book had a lot on its side when I started it, being that it was a alternate history novel with a bit of a steampunk twist, but it wasn’t too long before my goodwill ran out, and I found myself dutifully slogging my way through this book. Essentially this book is about Robert Lincoln, son of the President, who discovers a mysterious pocket watch that belonged to his father, and has been mysteriously running for decades. This watch starts and proves to be the key in a massive conspiracy that threatens the freedom of the entire world. After a fairly taut beginning, the whole story gets dragged down by a plethora of characters and storylines. The author manages to cram in President Taft and his wife, several members of his staff, Teddy Roosevelt, Tesla, J.P. Morgan, King Leopold of Belgium, Kurtz (from The Heart of Darkness), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Titanic, and tons of other fictional and historical personages and events. Add in an Air Force One dirigible, a robot Taft, meteorites and some under-imagines villains, and you have the basic plot.
Now there have been plenty of novels with complicated plots and a ton of slam-bang action and have managed to pull it off. Here Mr. della Quercia gets bogged down with a dizzy, slapstick style and telegraphed prose so that the whole thing feels more like a farce than anything else. There are few things that can cripple a book more than comedy that isn’t funny. This book contains several scenes that read like satire but are flat and uninspired. As the book nears the end it begins to feel even more and more rushed as battles and chases are glanced over in a pell-mell rush to the finale.
The author certainly knows his history, and has a genuine feel for the times and it characters, and showed enough promise ,in flashes, to make me give him a second chance, but in the end it was a case of too little too late to save this novel.