Reviews of The Chess Machine by Robert Lohr

The Chess Machine

A Novel

by Robert Lohr

The Chess Machine by Robert Lohr X
The Chess Machine by Robert Lohr
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2007, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    Sep 2008, 352 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Based on a true story, The Chess Machine is the breathtaking historical adventure of a legendary invention that astounded all who crossed its path

Vienna 1770: Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen unveils a strange and amazing invention, the Mechanical Turk, a sensational and unbeatable chess-playing automaton. But what the Habsburg court hails as the greatest innovation of the century is really nothing more than a brilliant illusion. The chess machine is secretly operated from inside by the Italian dwarf Tibor, a God-fearing social outcast whose chess-playing abilities and diminutive size make him the perfect accomplice in this grand hoax.

Von Kempelen and his helpers tour his remarkable invention all around Europe to amaze and entertain the public, but despite many valiant attempts and close calls, no one is able to beat the extraordinary chess machine. The crowds all across Europe adore the Turk, and the success of Baron von Kempelen seems assured. But when a beautiful and seductive countess dies under mysterious circumstances in the presence of the automaton, the Mechanical Turk falls under a cloud of suspicion, and the machine and his inventor become the targets of espionage, persecution, and aristocratic intrigue. What is the dark secret behind this automaton and what strange powers does it hold? The Chess Machine is a daring and remarkable tale, based on a true story, full of envy, lust, scandal and deception.

Venice: 1769

On an anonymous November day in the year 1769 Tibor Scardanelli had woken up in a windowless prison cell, with encrusted blood on his swollen face and a splitting headache. He groped in vain for a jug of water in the dim light. The reek of alcohol on his ragged clothes turned his stomach. He dropped back on the straw mattress and leaned against the cold lead of the wall. Certain experiences in his life were obviously bound to recur—he was destined to be cheated, robbed, beaten, arrested, and left to starve.

On the previous evening the dwarf had been playing chess for money in a tavern, and he spent his first winnings on brandy instead of a proper meal. So he was already drunk when the young merchant challenged him to play for a stake of two guilders. Tibor was winning the game easily, but when he bent to pick up a dropped coin, the Venetian put his queen back on the board, although she had been taken long ago. Tibor protested, but the ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Although the pacing is slow at times and some parts could have been trimmed without loss to the main flow, there is much to enjoy in The Chess Machine. We experience moments of high drama and humor, sometimes on the same page; swordfights and court intrigues; plus a growing tension as we come to know and care for the big hearted man inside the little body who has only his faith to hang on to as he is drawn further and further into Kempelen's deception and delusions of grandeur...continued

Full Review (496 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Media Reviews

Washington Post - Ron Charles
Despite the excitement and the humor, a surprising poignancy runs beneath this story. Löhr never weighs down The Chess Machine with any ponderous meditation, but he keeps hinting at the harrowing implications of modernity, the metaphysical effect of our technological illusions.

Kirkus Reviews
Rich in detail and psychological depth, this historical novel of 18th-century Europe has plenty of contemporary resonance for American readers.

Publishers Weekly
Though the narrative could use a light pruning, Löhr's eye for period detail and cast of eccentrics create an immersive and mirthful experience.

Das Leipziger Stadtmagazin (German)
In loving detail, Lohr presents the decadent scene of the ancien regime with everything that is a part of it: court intrigues, freemasons, courtesans, seances. It is all reminiscent of Patrick Suskind's mega-successful Perfume.

Figaro (France)
A master stroke ... [A] breathtaking narrative .... With a talent worthy of the best authors of this genre, Robert Lohr creates a tight-knit story where intrigue, treason, and traps of all kinds keep readers at the edge of their seats .... The formidable intrigue is built like a chess game. But the protagonists are far from being simple pawns; they are finely crafted characters who make The Chess Machine a powerful thriller about a madman's path.

Neue Westfalische (Germany)
Lohr's historical novel is an exciting story, splendidly entertaining and with a great deal to say - about men and women who rise above their limitations and surpass themselves, and about the entire spectrum of human passions.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The story of Chess

Chess is thought to have originated in northern India or Afghanistan. The earliest written references are from around 600 AD but there is some evidence that the game could have existed as early as 100 AD. Interest in chess spread along the trade routes from India, with differentvariations found in different countries, such as Shogi in Japan and Xiangqi in China.

The variation known to Europeans and Americans today (Western Chess or International Chess) traveled through Iran to Italy and Spain with the Moors in the early 11th century, and from there to Scandinavia and Iceland with sea-faring "Vikings". By the early 15th century, chess was well established across Europe.

The six different chess pieces represent a cross section of medieval life:...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Chess Machine, try these:

  • The Great Passion jacket

    The Great Passion

    by James Runcie

    Published 2023

    About this book

    More by this author

    From acclaimed bestselling author James Runcie, a meditation on grief and music, told through the story of Bach's writing of the St. Matthew Passion.

  • The Race Underground jacket

    The Race Underground

    by Doug Most

    Published 2015

    About this book

    The Race Underground is a great American saga of two rival American cities, their rich, powerful and sometimes corrupt interests, and an invention that changed the lives of millions.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: If I Survive You
    If I Survive You
    by Jonathan Escoffery
    In If I Survive You, author Jonathan Escoffery portrays a family falling apart with grace. Main ...
  • Book Jacket: Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    by Sidik Fofana
    'Everybody got a story, everybody got a tale / Question is: Is it despair or prevail?' ...
  • Book Jacket: Fire Season
    Fire Season
    by Leyna Krow
    Fire Season is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that touches upon multiple genres and themes. It ...
  • Book Jacket: The Story of Russia
    The Story of Russia
    by Orlando Figes
    In The Story of Russia, British historian and writer Orlando Figes shares panoramic and ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Book Club Giveaway!
Win A Minor Chorus

A Minor Chorus

A debut novel from a rising literary star that brings the modern queer and Indigenous experience into sharp relief.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Y Can't G H A

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.