The Soul Machines by Alexandru Czimbor is a captivating novel that takes us back to 19th-century Europe where the lives of Tudor, Roli, and Sami along with all the people around them are changed forever with the emergence of an unusual artifact called amplemot.
The Soul Machines is an epic saga penned by Alexandru Czimbor. Set in late 19th-century Europe, the novel revolves around three friends. Tudor, Roli, and Sami are born and brought up in Nagybánya, a remote corner of Transylvania, then a part of the Austria-Hungary Empire. On the cusp of turning eighteen, the boys spend their time studying, working, and exploring the beautiful mountains around them. One winter evening, Tudor braves the forests owned by Baron Henczi, the wealthiest and most powerful person in the area, to gather some forbidden chestnuts. While fleeing from the baron’s men, Tudor stumbles upon an unusual artifact. Unable to make a head or tail of it, he buries it in its hiding spot and pledges to return for it later. Tudor tells his friends about the object and they decide to send Sami on a recon mission. Meanwhile, Tudor falls hopelessly in love with Orsolya, the beautiful and headstrong daughter of the newly-arrived wealthy Czáky family. Orsolya is also betrothed to Károly, Bishop Henczi’s nephew. To add to Tudor’s love problems, Sami returns from his mission with an addled mind. Tudor decides to get the object himself. On his way back, he comes across Count Richter who was consequently looking for the same artifact. Little does Tudor know that meeting the count and finding the artifact would not only change his life but also of those around him forever.
What is the artifact? Why are people after it? How is it going to change things in Nagybánya, more specifically in the lives of Tudor, Roli, and Sami? Will Tudor ever get a happily-ever-after with Orsolya?
Alexandru Czimbor weaves a spellbinding tale in his The Soul Machines. His magical words teleport us to the late 1890s in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Czimbor’s use of vivid imagery makes us experience the pastoral beauty and the newness of the industrial revolution in 19th-century Europe. Right along with the ancient beauty of the forests, mountains, and rivers, we experience the newness of the railway and telegraph lines. We also savor the taste of scrumptious European food enjoyed by our characters.
Czimbor enlivens the milieu by shedding light on the socio-economic, religious, and political scenario of the time. Nagybánya is a small town, yet it is rife with the class difference prevalent during those times. Tudor, Roli, and Sami are bosom friends, yet the difference in their statures is palpable. While Roli comes from a wealthy Hungarian family, Tudor is a Romanian peasant and Sami is a mere gypsy. People cannot fathom their friendship. While Tudor still had a slight chance to climb up the echelons of society, Sami, for all his good intentions, could never hope to have a respectable position in society.
Class differences play a key role in the romantic arcs of the story. Despite their burgeoning love, Tudor and Orsolya have a difficult time even thinking of building a life together. I have to say that I am impressed with the way their love story is developed. Though they fall for each other at first sight, both Tudor and Orsolya take their time getting to know each other. It was a treat to see them overcoming their inhibitions and actually talking about things before they even thought about committing to each other. This is why I still root for them to end up together. Roli too falls for Mikhaila, one of the first generation of women to attend the Vienna University, at first sight. However, in his case, he has to reconcile his preconceived image of a perfect woman with Mikhaila’s straightforward and progressive personality. To add to his troubles, Mikhaila gets smitten with Tudor. I can’t wait to know what happens in the love rectangle between Tudor, Orsolya, Roli, and Mikhaila.
Alexandru Czimbor masterfully showcases the religious and political atmosphere of the time. Christianity was the main religion in Europe at the time. Yet, the various denominations of the religion made things complicated for the masses. In Transylvania, Orthodoxy and Lutheranism were supplanted by Catholicism. Greek Orthodoxy was also practiced. This portrayed the predominance of the Hungarians and Austrians over the Germans and the local Romanians of the area. Still, there were Orthodox monasteries that secretly popped up in defiance of the subjugation. The one thing common in all these beliefs was that they were against reasoning. This is depicted wonderfully in the scene where a debate is held in Kolozsvár discussing Charles Darwin’s books. Like Tudor, I was scintillated by the back and forth between Father Varga and Professor Csaszar. I found Professor Kis’ insights intriguing as well. A devout yet naive monk named Dimitrie’s reaction to the discussion reminded me of all those ardent followers who still exist in our society.
The political stances emerging at the time are showcased in a brilliant manner. We get to see how extreme beliefs can distort people’s minds. It was fascinating to see the burgeoning of communism and Nazism. Count Richter’s discussion with Giulio and András on the Orient Express about the fallacies of extreme liberalism and conservativeness gave me a lot of food for thought. It is one of my favorite scenes ever. Czimbor excellently portrays how a fanatic belief in any religion or political system can only bring ruin.
Each and every character of The Soul Machines is a flesh and blood human being with their own personal journeys. Czimbor not only gives us the point of view of the three buddies but also of most of the people around them. As we follow Tudor, Roli, and Sami, we also get glimpses into the minds of Orsolya, Mikhaila, Count Richter, Károly, Mr. And Mrs. Czáky, Dimitrie, Maria, Simion, Jancsi, and Bishop Henczi, among others. All this is done in such a seamless manner that you are never once baffled. This is indeed a testament to the author’s writing prowess. Tudor, Roli, and Sami are all relatable characters. Tudor had a hunger for knowledge that I could empathize with. He was a noble hero who did his best to do the right thing. His bond with his mother, Maria, and sisters, Johanna and Mila, is heart-touching. Tudor is a strong individual. In the course of the story, he has to start all over again after losing everything. He somehow reminded me of the knights of yore. Roli is a great friend. He is always there for his people and never lets his status be a barrier to his friendship. In fact, he uses his wealth for the benefit of everyone around him. Without him, none of the boys’ adventures would be possible. Sami is a gypsy with a troubled home life. I love how Czimbor uses a somewhat Cockney version of English while writing his dialogues. This showed that he, being a Gypsy, did not have the education opportunities of Tudor and Roli. Sami was pragmatic yet humorous in his own way. Sometimes, I found myself screaming at him to put his dreams to good use. He is a remarkable character I will remember for quite some time.
Overall, Alexandru Czimbor’s The Soul Machines is a captivating novel that enthralled me for the entire 584 pages. Time flew by when I had the book in my hands. Though we get a satisfactory closure, the author presents us with a tantalizing ending promising much more to come. I am beyond eager to get my hands on the sequel. The Soul Machines is well-written with only a few minor errors. I highly recommend this book to every fiction lover. It has all the aspects that make a spectacular novel ranging from magic, romance, drama, history, culture, action, and espionage, among others.
- Title: The Soul Machines
- Author: Alexandru Czimbor
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Theme: Romance, Mystery, Fantasy, Coming of Age
- Publication Date: January 5, 2023
- ISBN or ASIN: B0BRT85YMG
- Number of Pages: 584
- Minimum Audience Age: 14
(Note: 0=none, 1=a few, 2=considerable, 3=pronounced, 4=excessive)
- Sexual themes: 1
- Religious themes: 2
- Violence, self-harm, etc.: 2
- Crude language, expletives, swearing, etc.: 2
- Other adult themes: 0
- Content: 5 stars
- Writing Style: 5 stars
- Appeal to Target Audience: 5 stars
- Uniqueness: 5 stars
- Editing: 5 stars
- Other factors: 5 stars
- Overall: 5 out of 5
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One thought on “A Book Review by Kajori: “The Soul Machines” by Alexandru Czimbor”
I learned so much just by reading your review. And I love the idea of people from different backgrounds coming together. Great review!
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