Homonculus was one of founding books of the steampunk genre, it won the Philip K. Dick Award, and it was one of the books that made me fall in love with the genre many years ago. Here’s Wikipedia’s plot summary:

A dirigible with a dead pilot has been passing over Victorian London in a decaying orbit for some years, arousing the interest of the Royal Society, as well as scientist-explorer Langdon St. Ives and the evangelist/counterfeiter Shiloh. Shiloh is convinced that the dirigible carries his father, a tiny space alien, but withholds this knowledge from vivisectionist Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, who he is paying to reanimate Shiloh’s dead mother. Narbondo and the evil millionaire Kelso Drake have their own interest in the alien; Drake possesses its spacecraft, which he uses for perverse purposes in one of his chain of stop-and-go brothels.

St. Ives and his friends of the Trismegistus Club are more concerned with the inheritance of Jack Owlesby, a fine young fellow affianced to Dorothy, the beautiful daughter of toymaker/inventor William Keeble, who builds jolly boxes for space aliens, oxygenators, and gigantic emeralds. Jack’s late father bequeathed him just such a gem, but also left behind dark knowledge developed in association with the evil Narbondo. St. Ives and the heroic tobacconist Theophilus Goodall suspect that Narbondo and his assistant, the pimply Willis Pule, are using this knowledge to raise the dead, possibly for nefarious purposes. When poor Bill Kraken steals what everyone assumes to be Owlesby’s emerald in a fit of alien-induced delirium tremens, the ambitions of Shiloh, Narbondo, Drake, and Pule collide with the heroism of St Ives and Goodall and the scientific greed of Parsons of the Royal Academy as Hampstead Heath turns into a carnival of flying skulls, crumbling ghouls, crashing spaceships, and the sparking perversity of the dreadful Marseilles Pinkle.

The boxes that Keeble makes play a major role in the third act, with several boxes, identical in appearance but containing very different things, change hands frequently, often without the holders being sure, or correct, about which they are holding.


Unfortunately, reviews of Homunculus are hard to find online, no doubt because of its age. Here’s what I could find outside of short reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, etc.:

Links to other reviews would be appreciated.