Audiobook Review: All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen

18 03 2013

All Men of Genius by Lev AV Rosen

Read by Emily Gray

Recorded Books

Length: 17 Hrs 2 Min

Genre: Steampunk Romantic Comedy

Quick Thoughts: All Men of Genius is a mad capped screwball comedy of manners flipped on its head and infused with mad science, gender politics and of course, robots, or, well… automatons. It was just so much fun, with layers upon depths upon layers yet never becoming even the tiniest bit pretentious. I enjoyed All Men of Genius so much that I don’t think my words have even done it half the justice it deserves.  So, go, listen yourself. You’ll like it.

Grade: A

2013 Audie Nomination for Fantasy

One of the things I love about Armchair Audies is that even though I chose to take on the categories that most match my typical genre reading, there are always selections well outside my typical comfort areas. This year, it is especially true of the Fantasy category which has six titles I had not read or listened too previously and only one author I have read before. One of the most intriguing titles for me, because it was simply something I probably never would have selected on my own was All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen. If this is the first time you have stopped by the old ‘lobe, let me explain. My typical niche in the reading world surrounds dark horror and fantasy, science fiction and violent thrillers with an obsession with post apocalyptic, and dystopian fiction and of course, zombies. Sure, I am perfectly willing to step outside of my comfort zone, but there is typically a hook to it, some catalyst that points me in the direction of a book. I have personally never been a fan of Jane Austen or the modern day romantic comedy which I personally believe owes a lot to Austen. I tend to be outwardly skeptical towards plots that surround romance, although I’ve been known to get caught up in it from time to time like anyone else with a soul. While I have read some Cherie Priest, a little Tim Powers and others that fall into the Steampunk subgenre, it’s usually some other aspect of the tale that hooks me in. So, honestly, a Victorian Steampunky Romantic Comedy was probably never going to walk a natural path into my mountainous "To Be Listened To" pile no matter how many robots may appear. Yet, this is why I take on such projects. Not just because I am an audiobook uber-fan, but because sometimes, pushing my boundaries is a good thing. Plus, well… robots.

Illyria College was the most exclusive scientific college, where the brightest young minds gathered to explore the sciences in creative ways. Well, the brightest young male minds. More than anything, young Violet Adams wanted to attend Illyria to further train her gifted mind in the mechanical sciences, so, of course, as all brilliant young minds do, she hatched a scheme. She would apply to Illyria, and most certainly attend, under the guise of her twin brother Ashton. Yet, while she planned for many a pitfall, she never even considered the greatest of all complications… love. First off, I want to tackle my biggest issue with this novel, and that, of course was me. I don’t think I was properly prepared for the mad hijinks, the pure fun, and the surprising depths of this tale. I also felt like Rosen crammed this tale full of tributes to a genre I am dreadfully unread in, which includes not just Austen, but Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare and that for ever level I of this novel I so very much enjoyed, there were two that I simply missed. All Men of Genius is a mad capped screwball comedy of manners flipped on its head and infused with mad science, gender politics and of course, robots, or, well automata. At times, I felt like I was listening to two separate novels intertwined by some strange experiment, yet, somehow manage to perfectly fall together, against all my expectations. At the core, this was a novel about relationships, and Rosen packs it full of so many colorful untraditional relationships, you couldn’t help but find one or more to really cheer for. What I liked about his style of entanglement, is it was just as much about caste and station as it was about gender roles and sexuality. You had Ashton, who worried about the propriety of romance with one of his servants, and a conniving actress finding more than she expected in her romantic schemes. Rosen told tales of young love and old love, and even some young/old love, with class, race and gender all pushed and smooshed and tangled together, in ways that made it show that sometimes these things don’t matter in love, except when they do. Yet, all this is peripheral to a tale of romance, science, revenge and egomaniacal madness involving a brilliant young women whose deception and genius affects the lives of the master of Illyria and his young ward. It has all the brilliance and frustrations of your typical romantic comedy, including the misconceptions, misapprehensions and miscommunications inherent to the greatest of over the top schemes. Rosen explores many themes you find in many modern day movies and televisions series, yet in a bright new twisted way, that you just can’t help but love. Add to all this one of the craziest, robot filled action sequences as a cap to the all the fun that you couldn’t help but feel all types of giddy thrills experiencing it. I so loved the pure mad fun of the ending that I could even accept the Hollywoodeque style epilogue, because, really, it just felt it had to end that way. I enjoyed All Men of Genius so much that I don’t think my words have even done it half the justice it deserves.  It was just so much fun, with layers upon depths upon layers yet never becoming even the tiniest bit pretentious. And, also… have I mentioned the automata. Because call them robots or automata or whatever your little heart desires, I still call them awesome.

Emily Gray, the narrator of All Men of Genius really had her work cut out for her. This novel was full of so many characters, some of them low keyed and restrained while others wildly over the top. Add to this a protagonist who was a maybe not quite proper young British Lady of some standing attempting to speak as a young British man of some standing, although at times slipping and sliding through the ranges of her voice. So, yeah, this wasn’t an easy task, and really, with a narrator who was too over the top, or two low keyed, or who just really didn’t grasp the characters, this production had every chance of being an audiobook trainwreck. Well, it wasn’t. It was a wonderful performance by a talented narrator. I truly believe that the key element to Gray’s narration was her understanding of the characters. She manages to portray each character as I feel the author intended. I believe each character had a battle between outward appearance and their true essence, and Gray captured this important struggle perfectly accentuating the themes of the novel. Also, I was happy to see, that with such a crazy final sequence, Gray kept the train well on the tracks, allowing the action to come alive, but never to get away from the listener. All Men of Genius was wonderful melding of performance and material, and one that can appeal to a wide range of listeners. Yes, even you. So, go, listen yourself. You’ll like it.

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