22 January 2010

Review: The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming

As an old man looks through a recent shipment of magazines for his Los Angeles antiques store, he spots a 1900 newspaper clipping with a photo of two men and a woman in New York City. The man is compelled to tell the story of how those people—Peter Force, Cheri-Anne Toledo, and Nicola Tesla—more than a hundred years ago, found themselves together on that particular day and what happened later. The telling involves several changes in point of view, at least three time periods, a trip across the country, and the crossing of class and educational boundaries.

So what is Matthew Flaming's The Kingdom of Ohio all about? It's about technology and invention and the people who control them. It's about the underlying forces of the universe. It's about love. And, finally, it's about the nature of time.

Overall, the novel works on many levels, especially when focusing on the life of Peter Force and how he ended up working on machinery for the construction of the New York City subway system. The rise and fall of the Kingdom of Ohio and Flaming's take on Tesla, Edison, and Morgan (reminiscent of the novel Ragtime) were imaginative and interesting.

The changing points of view and time frames smoothly interlocked. The reader is never confused, although once in while a change was unexpected or startling. Parts of Peter Force's ultimate fate were easy to figure out, as intended. On the other hand, the very end—which made me chuckle—was a surprise, but I was kicking myself for not seeing it earlier.

What didn't work as well were the love story and some of Cheri-Anne's experiences in New York. It wasn't really clear why Peter would fall for her and be so completely drawn into her world. And, in fact, Cheri-Anne was sometimes less solid than the more minor characters. This was probably a conscious decision, but I'm not sure it was a completely successful device.

Flaming has written an impressive debut novel that is difficult to put down. You'll be drawn to both Peter Force and the old man. You'll find it easy to envision the frontier west and the working man's world of the city. It is a fun read that shouldn't be missed, especially by those who like a little bit of fantasy or alternate history.

See also my feature post of The Kingdom of Ohio.

The Kingdom of Ohio at Powell's
The Kingdom of Ohio at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Putnam/Amy Einhorn, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780399155604
Challenges: New Author, What's in a Name, Global, Amy Einhorn, 100+
YTD: 7
Source: Review copy (see review policy)


Lisa 1/22/10, 9:47 AM  

I find Tesla endlessly fascinating so I'm going to have to get my hands on this one!

mjmbecky 1/22/10, 10:02 AM  

This sounds really interesting! I haven't seen this book at all, or heard anything about it. Thanks for your review and for pointing it out to me!

Michelle 1/22/10, 11:02 AM  

This sounds fascinating. I had never heard of this book before reading your review, but it definitely has to go on my list.

bermudaonion 1/22/10, 11:11 AM  

Sounds interesting. I wonder if Carl would like this one.

Vivienne 1/22/10, 12:16 PM  

The cover was enough to get my attention. After reading your review I definitely want to read it.

A Buckeye Girl Reads 1/22/10, 12:39 PM  

How can I pass up a book that has Ohio in it's title?

Meghan 1/22/10, 1:09 PM  

This sounds so interesting! I remember seeing it in Shelf Awareness but I didn't know much about it, and you've made it sound really appealing even if some bits don't work that well.

Kari 1/22/10, 4:51 PM  

I'm intrigued now. I just sent to the NYC Transit Museum last weekend and learned all about building the subway. So cool! They also had lots of old subway cars from the early 1900s and on.

Heather 1/22/10, 5:11 PM  

I am wondering if there is enough technical information to keep my hubby interested???

Beth F 1/22/10, 5:18 PM  

Lisa: I bet you'd love this. The scenes with Tesla were great.

Kathy: This might suit Carl -- I'd be curious what he thinks.

Buckeye -- it's really fun. I grew up outside of Toledo and some of the story takes place there.

Kari -- Oh wow, you'd really get a kick out of this book then.

Heather -- the book isn't technology heavy, but there might be just enough machinery and science in it to keep your husband interest. Give it a try.

Alyce 1/22/10, 6:08 PM  

I can't wait to read this book! I absolutely anything that has to do with manipulation of time or time travel.

Julie P. 1/22/10, 8:27 PM  

Oh I am dying to read this now!

softdrink 1/22/10, 8:31 PM  

The publishers need to go on hiatus for about a year so I can get caught up with the books I have and stop adding books like this to the ever growing tbr pile!

Jenners 1/22/10, 9:08 PM  

This sounds interesting on a lot of levels. Good review (as always).

bookmagic 1/22/10, 11:41 PM  

I added this to my list a couple of weeks ago b/c it is an Amy Einhorn book. I'm glad to see it will be worth the read, as was The Help and The Postmistress

Nymeth 1/24/10, 7:06 AM  

I love this time period, so I'll definitely keep an eye out for this one.

Jenn's Bookshelves 1/24/10, 9:56 AM  

Great review. I really want to read this one!

Amy 1/25/10, 7:02 AM  

I just picked this up at the library. I'm looking forward to reading it.

S. Krishna 1/25/10, 10:03 AM  

You know I loved this one. I didn't notice the flaws with Cheri-Anne's character while I was reading the book, but now that I reflect on it, you are right! I guess I was too engrossed in the story, which is definitely not a bad thing.

Jen - devourer of books 1/25/10, 2:11 PM  

You and Swapna convinced me, I'm reading this one soon.

Alice Teh 1/30/10, 11:58 PM  

Here's another great read. I need to put this into my wish list as well.

Moonbeam 2/19/10, 11:46 AM  

I always enjoy reading a postive review on a book I didn't particularly like. It gives me a different perspective.

I wouldn't recommend this one. You can read my review here. I can now undertand why some liked it.

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