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Article

The Chess Machine

Posted on

The Chess Machine

type:
Book
Current Status:
In Season
author:
Robert Lohr
publisher:
Penguin
genre:
History, Fiction

We gave it a B-

In 1770 Vienna, Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen unveiled a chess-playing clockwork automaton in the form of a Turk that routed virtually all challengers — it took years before the contraption was revealed to be a hoax, powered by a hidden human operator. In his promising debut, The Chess Machine, Robert Löhr takes this historical curiosity and advances an overwrought historical thriller involving a pious Italian dwarf, murder, and blackmail. Unfortunately, the Turk’s real history, recounted in Tom Standage’s 2002 nonfiction book, The Mechanical Turk, outmaneuvers any of Löhr’s improbable plot mechanics or dubious character motivations. B-