The Paradise Engine

Written by Rebecca Campbell
Review by Jeanne Greene

The Paradise Engine is the story of a theatre haunted by souls a century apart as each approaches the end of an era. Or is it? In an intricate plot that zigzags through the last hundred years or so, there is also a man behind the scenes, a complicated machine, and a whiff of steampunk in the air. . .

Today. A recent graduate, Anthea takes an independent research position (her first paying job) to help revitalize a historic theatre and, relegated to a storage room quasi workplace, she begins to shuffle papers. The job is within her capabilities—if she could only concentrate—but as Anthea immerses herself in the voices and faces of long ago, her own history intervenes.

A hundred years ago. Liam earns a meager living as a tenor. His talent is a minor one; but Liam is a handsome man, which is why (you may think) he is hired to sing duets with a woman who keeps him in style. Soothed by the feel of fine linen, sated with excellent foods, Liam puts his lack of talent on a record, which will end up in Anthea’s hands.

As anyone who holds on to an unsatisfactory life for lack of anything better will understand, Anthea and Liam must fail, but the story isn’t over. The machine is gone but its builder lives on. Evil hovers in the background—but certain loving connections are not severed by time. At least, that is the optimist’s interpretation. According to the author, The Paradise Machine is about the end of the world—but how is she to know?

The Paradise Engine is an original, well-written, complicated novel recommended for historians and other patient thinkers.