MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Summary and book 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 $39 for a year or $12 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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 $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

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 different variations 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 ...

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 $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Chess Machine, try these:

  • 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.

  • Museum of Human Beings jacket

    Museum of Human Beings

    by Colin Sargent

    Published 2009

    About this book

    A Shoshone woman, Sacagawea, leads Lewis and Clark to the Pacific at the turn of the 19th century. On her back is her infant son, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the youngest member of the Expedition - a child caught between two worlds.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes 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 $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: When We Were Vikings
    When We Were Vikings
    by Andrew David MacDonald
    In When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald, readers are first introduced to Zelda on her ...
  • Book Jacket: How to Build a Heart
    How to Build a Heart
    by Maria Padian
    Maria Padian is well-known for her motif of exploring teen reactions to social issues. Her novel ...
  • Book Jacket: Follow Me to Ground
    Follow Me to Ground
    by Sue Rainsford
    Ada and her father are human-like beings who age slowly and possess the power to heal all illness. ...
  • Book Jacket: Children of the Land
    Children of the Land
    by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
    In this exquisitely crafted memoir, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo describes coming of age as a young ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Girl in White Gloves
    by Kerri Maher

    A fascinating and deeply researched novel of the extraordinary Grace Kelly.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Sun Down Motel
    by Simone St. James

    The chilling new novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
American Dirt
by Jeanine Cummins

"American Dirt is a Grapes of Wrath for our times."
—Don Winslow

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win The Lost Family

The Lost Family
by Libby Copeland

A deeply reported look at the rise of home genetic testing and the seismic shock it has had on individual lives.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A F I Need I A F I

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

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.