All Men of Geniusby Lev AC Rosen
Inspired by two of the most beloved works by literary masters, All Men of Genius takes place in an alternate Steampunk Victorian London, where science makes the impossible possible.
Violet Adams wants to attend Illyria College, a widely renowned school for the most brilliant up-and-coming scientific minds, founded by the late Duke Illyria, the greatest/i>
Inspired by two of the most beloved works by literary masters, All Men of Genius takes place in an alternate Steampunk Victorian London, where science makes the impossible possible.
Violet Adams wants to attend Illyria College, a widely renowned school for the most brilliant up-and-coming scientific minds, founded by the late Duke Illyria, the greatest scientist of the Victorian Age. The school is run by his son, Ernest, who has held to his father’s policy that the small, exclusive college remain male-only. Violet sees her opportunity when her father departs for America. She disguises herself as her twin brother, Ashton, and gains entry.
But keeping the secret of her sex won’t be easy, not with her friend Jack’s constant habit of pulling pranks, and especially not when the duke’s young ward, Cecily, starts to develop feelings for Violet’s alter ego, “Ashton.” Not to mention blackmail, mysterious killer automata, and the way Violet’s pulse quickens whenever the young duke, Ernest (who has a secret past of his own), speaks to her. She soon realizes that it’s not just keeping her secret until the end of the year faire she has to worry about: it’s surviving that long.
Seventeen-year-old Violet Adams, a brilliant inventor of mechanical devices and automata, disguises herself as her twin brother Ashton so that she can attend London's famous (and male-only) Illyria College, which specializes in the sciences. The masquerade becomes somewhat more uncomfortable when the school's headmaster, Duke Ernest of Illyria, begins to have unsettling feelings regarding "Ashton," as does his beautiful young ward and cousin, Cecily Worthing, who is herself pursued by Violet's childhood friend and fellow student, Jack Feste. Meanwhile, the sinister second-year student Malcolm Volio plots to seize control both of the school and Cecily.Those conversant with both plays will have a fairly good idea of the role each character will assume and how the story will go. The steampunk story line, involving a secret cabal of scientists seeking world domination, climaxing in chaos at the Crystal Palace and the expected cameo by Queen Victoria, may seem equally familiar to many readers. The lack of surprises is somewhat ameliorated by a multitude of amusing allusions to the novel's sources, especially Bunburry, the constantly ailing and entirely imaginary friend inEarnest, who's transformed into a very real and incredibly accident-prone scientist. (It is unfortunate that Lady Augusta Bracknell, the imperiously witty matriarch who providesEarnest'sbest lines, is morphed into a foul-mouthed, oafish astronomy professor.) Rosen writes with color and verve, particularly in his descriptions of mechanical marvels, and also offers moments of unexpected poignancy, such as the sad history of Cecily's governess Miriam, whose characterization far exceeds the depth of her initial inspirations,Earnest'sditzy Miss Prism andTwelfth Night'scomic maid Maria.
Here's hoping Rosen will strike out into fresher territory in future efforts.
“Rosen's lighthearted debut puts a steampunk spin on the Victorian comedy of manners while sneakily critiquing the gender biases of both genres… Decommissioned robots, mysterious mechanisms, strange squid creatures, blackmail, and a number of vivid characters add up to a great deal of fun.” Publishers Weekly
“A nimble twist on Victorian romance that's woven into Rosen's intricate web of attractions, repulsions, and matrimonial machinations. But he never lets his mesh of relationships--or his fluid, playful views of sexuality--overwhelm a sprawl of vibrant, witty characters… Steampunk soap-opera, as elevated as it is, isn't all Rosen has up his sleeve. Tackling the genre at its root, All Men slyly examines the psychology and the aesthetics behind the act of human invention.” The Onion A.V. Club, A-
“Rosen writes with color and verve, particularly in his descriptions of mechanical marvels, and also offers moments of unexpected poignancy.” Kirkus Reviews
“Fits well on the shelf with Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, with broad crossover appeal to fans of SF, historical romance, and young adult fiction.” Library Journal
- Tom Doherty Associates
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- First Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 5.82(w) x 8.52(h) x 1.43(d)
Read an Excerpt
All Men of Genius
By Lev AC Rosen, Liz Gorinsky
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2011 Lev AC Rosen
All rights reserved.
VIOLET and Ashton's father was leaving for America to help decide where time should begin. It was Violet's duty to retrieve her brother and bring him to the door to say good-bye, but he was not paying her any attention. Instead, he was absorbed in his piano playing. If she had been luckier, she thought, her twin brother would have inherited her father's obsession with time, at least insofar as learning to play the piano with some sense of it.
"Ashton!" she shouted. He ignored her. "Ashton!" she shouted more loudly. She was standing by his shoulder. He could clearly hear her, but was pretending not to.
"If music be the food of love, play on!" Ashton yelled over his rackety playing. Then he attempted to sing the same lines along with the music — to think of it as "in tune with the music" would imply that the music had a tune. Violet, impatient, tapped him on the shoulder with a little force.
Ashton finally stopped playing and turned to look at his sister. "I think I play the piano rather well. Perhaps not technically well ..."
"Or well at all," Violet said, smiling.
"If I were speaking to someone who was about to do me a very large favor — indeed, who was about to assist me in a most unorthodox scheme — I think perhaps I'd be a little nicer."
Violet narrowed her eyes. She did need his help, so she forced a falsely cheerful smile. "Anyone can play technically well, brother," she said sweetly. "But you play with real feeling."
"Thank you," Ashton said with a large grin. "Your compliments mean ever so much to me."
"Father is about to leave, and we must say good-bye."
"Ah," Ashton said, and closed the piano. He stood, took Violet's arm, and walked with her toward the door. The two of them were as attractive a pair as two seventeen-year-olds of fine English breeding could be. Violet was a lovely specimen of her gender, with dark auburn hair, which always seemed to have the look of having been blown in the breeze for a while. She was fair, with rosy cheeks, and though she was a bit tall, she had a fine, womanly figure. Her strong-jawed oval face showed her great intelligence in both the sparkle of her clear gray eyes and the sharply arching smirk of her bow-shaped lips. She seldom took pains with her appearance, and so possessed a carefree beauty that would not have been out of place in a gothic romance of the sort she loathed. Ashton, also with pale skin and auburn hair, had a more dandyish appearance — as carefully dressed as Violet was careless. He often carried a cane, and wore outlandish bespoke jackets made by a tailor in London.
Their father, Dr. Joseph Cornwall Adams, was one of the leading astronomers in the country, and Violet and Ashton had grown up crawling the winding tower of stairs to the observatory on the top of their manor, where they would stare at the various devices that moved lenses and recorded images of the night sky. But each of the children had learned different things from this. Ashton had focused on the romance of the stars and the night sky, and as he grew, devoted his energies to poetry and the arts, whereas Violet saw the brass instruments her father used and decided she would be the next to design such devices. By the age of eight she had fashioned herself a lab in the basement of the manor, where she taught herself the Great Principles of the Sciences: natural, chemical, and especially mechanical. To deny her genius would be to deny the truth, for she was truly gifted. Since then she had managed to create many marvelous inventions, much to the delight of her brother and the chagrin of Mrs. Wilks, their governess.
Ashton and Violet headed to the entry foyer and watched the servants load their father's coach in the rain. It was difficult for Violet to hold still, as she was anxious for her father to go. It was not that she wanted him gone — in fact, she already missed him, and was sad at his parting — but she had spent the past few weeks orchestrating a great scheme, which would help her to fulfill her dreams, and she could not begin it until her father had left.
"Children," Mrs. Wilks said from behind them, "come away from the door. It's a little drafty, and you'll catch cold." She beamed at them until they moved away. She had been their governess since birth, and their mother's maid and friend before that. She had named the twins after their mother died in childbirth, and had raised them as a foster mother. And though she was filled with love for them, she was also filled with worry. Consequently, the twins often regarded her as they would a maiden aunt who loved them nearly to the point of suffocation and would have preferred they stay safe, probably bundled with many quilts and tied to their beds, where nothing bad would ever happen to them and where she could spoon-feed them her love and possibly also homemade pea soup.
When the carriage was loaded outside, the three of them looked up the stairs as if expecting Mr. Adams to appear with a flourish, bid them all good-bye, leap out the door and into the coach, and drive it away himself. Had that actually happened, however, they all would have fainted from shock, as Mr. Adams was not one for flourish. A moment later, Mr. Adams came carefully down the stairs, holding a bulging briefcase in one hand and a few loose papers in another. He read them as he walked, trusting his feet to find the next step.
"Father, do be careful," Violet said.
"Ah. Violet, Ashton, Mrs. Wilks," he said, as if he were surprised to see them all standing there.
"The coach is ready, sir," Mrs. Wilks said. "If you don't leave soon, you'll miss the airship."
"Ah, well, I have time to say good-bye, don't I?" Mr. Adams asked. Mrs. Wilks nodded.
"Are you excited, Father?" Violet asked, giving him a hug. "America must be wondrous."
"Indeed, I am rather excited. Not just to see America, but also for the conference. All the great minds in the field of astronomy and cartography will be there. It seems a great number of them feel that the proper place to put the First Meridian is in Greenwich. Ha!" And here he laughed a little; a sweet, cheerful, sort of coughing laugh, suitable to a man of his years and his temperament. "It is a good thing that we will have a global meridian, of course, but it was a mistake placing England's in Greenwich. I certainly hope we can fix that by placing it somewhere else for the entire globe." He smiled, making the creases around his eyes wrinkle into deep lines. Violet smiled also, for her father's amusement made her happy. He was a short man, about fifty years of age, with a long, gray, bushy mustache. His shoulders were often thrown back a little too far, and his chin was always a little too high, perhaps stuck that way from constantly gazing up through his telescope. His clothes were usually shabby and too loose, but he knew how to dress himself well if he were going to meet anyone outside the household. His eyes, once a sharp gray like his children's, had become softened and blurry over time, like dissolving clouds. He blinked perhaps more often than is common, and sometimes had to force himself to smile, because in truth, although he loved his children, he always felt a little sad for having lost their mother, whom he had loved more than the stars.
"Will you bring me back an arrowhead?" Ashton asked, also hugging his father.
"One for me as well!" Violet said.
"Oh? Well, yes, if I find any."
"You're going to be there a year. The conference won't take that long, will it?" Violet asked.
"Well, the conference doesn't even start until October of 1884. But there are a series of smaller conferences beforehand, and some ridiculous social meetings of various astronomers...." Mr. Adams looked off distantly, as if dreading interacting with his peers.
"So you can explore! And bring us back arrowheads," Ashton said, satisfied.
"I'll see what I can do. Now, you children must promise to be good, and listen to Mrs. Wilks." Their father smiled, and they smiled back. They needed him to be comfortable and trusting for what they had planned next. Luckily, he was comfortable and trusting, and his head was so filled with the night sky that he couldn't see the small deceptions his children would sometimes practice on him.
"Actually, Father, Ashton and I have decided to spend the season in London."
"Well, Mrs. Wilks will go with you, then."
"Oh no, Father. Mrs. Wilks needs to stay here to look after the manor. I'll get a maid more suited to city life. One who knows the most modern hairstyles, and about dresses and hats and things."
"Hats?" her father asked.
"I know about hats," Mrs. Wilks said.
"I hear they're very fashionable. Last time he went to the city, Ashton brought me back a gray top hat with a green ribbon and a white veil. He says all the women were wearing them." Ashton nodded.
"Were they? Well ... I haven't really noticed."
"Mrs. Wilks knew nothing about it, either. So you can see why I'll need a new lady's maid."
"I know about hats now," Mrs. Wilks said, crossing her arms.
"I suppose," Mr. Adams said, a finger on his chin.
"This seems a sudden decision," Mrs. Wilks said, frowning. "Perhaps we could discuss it more thoroughly through the post. The children and I will send you a note explaining why they want to spend the season in town —"
"I want to spend the season in town so that I am ready to come out at the end of the year," Violet said, batting her eyelashes.
"Come out?" Mr. Adams's eyes shone with happiness. Finally, his daughter was going to start behaving like a proper girl, get married, and give him grandchildren, which he secretly desired, because he loved the way babies smelled like flour, and how they would reach out and touch all his astronomical instruments because the stars were still new to them. He had been hinting around the subject for years, afraid to suggest it, in case she was offended. But now, she had decided upon it herself, and he could already imagine the tiny grandbabies in his arms. At that moment, he would do anything for his daughter. He blinked, and planted a kiss on her forehead. "If those are your plans, dear child, then you should enact them. Mrs. Wilks, you shall tend to the household here. Come February, Violet will find a maid in town, and her brother shall take over the sometimes difficult task of guarding her reputation. Doesn't that sound wonderful? You can have a break from them."
"I don't know, sir —," Mrs. Wilks said, raising her hand up as if to stop the conversation from going any further.
"Oh, don't worry so much, Mrs. Wilks. I promise to be very good," Violet said, lowering her eyes. She would need to be in town long before February, but Ashton had a plan for that. "And I will write to you every Sunday so you know we're safe and sound. You should stay here, though, and rest. Think of how hectic the season is in London, and how it would afflict your nerves."
"My nerves are quite fine, I think," Mrs. Wilks said.
"Don't worry, Mrs. Wilks," Mr. Adams said, clapping her on the shoulder. "They'll be quite all right."
"If you say so, sir." Mrs. Wilks looked more anxious than usual. She started to twist a stray brown curl around her finger.
"And I know they will look after each other. You will, won't you? A girl with your sister's beauty is liable to catch the attention of all the rogues in London. You must pay careful mind that she is always on guard."
"I'll watch out for her, Father," Ashton said. Violet held back a snicker at this. "In fact, I was thinking that in order to better acquaint her with how the season works, we could both go down to London as early as October, for the little season."
"Little season?" Mrs. Wilks asked.
"Yes," Ashton said. "It is the season before the season — attended by bankers, civil servants, and small gentlefolk who don't have estates out of town. And, more important, artists, poets, painters, literati, and the like. There will be readings and small exhibitions."
"Will that be appropriate?" Mrs. Wilks asked. "I doubt there will be many ladies among the literati."
"Why, some of the bankers have wives, and the wives of the small gentlefolk and civil servants will be there. Besides, Mrs. Wilks, you speak as though poets don't have wives, or indeed, that poets cannot be ladies."
"A woman poet is hardly a lady," Mrs. Wilks said.
"I think it's a splendid idea," Mr. Adams broke in. "It will be a good example of how ladies in society behave, even those of lesser society. We can't have you talking only about springs and levers during the season, now, can we, dear?" he said, his eyes twinkling.
"Of course not, Father," Violet said sweetly.
"Very well. You may go in October. But, Ashton, mind the art she sees is all ... decent."
"Of course, Father," Ashton said, grinning at Mrs. Wilks, whose brow was furrowed.
"Have a safe trip, Father," Violet said. "And, if you can remember, make a note of the operating system of the airship — steam powered, I'm sure, but is the steering mechanism spring based or does it use additional tanks of compressed air? And if so, how many? And where are they located on the ship?"
"I will try to remember to find that out," Mr. Adams said, sighing. "Now, come wave good-bye to me as I go."
The three of them walked outside into the rain, which had lightened considerably. The carriage was waiting, loaded up with Mr. Adams's luggage, and pulled by two strong black steeds. Violet thought, not for the first time, how convenient it would be if her father would just buy one of the new, steam-powered coaches which did not require horses, and moved very quickly, but he had thus far denied all her requests for one.
Mr. Adams hopped into the carriage before he could get very wet. With one final look at his children, he rapped the window. The driver took off, pulling the carriage out of the courtyard and down the drive. Violet and Ashton stayed outside, Ashton even waving his handkerchief, until they couldn't see the carriage any longer.
Mrs. Wilks still stood in the doorway, her lower lip wobbling slightly. "So you're goin' to London, are you?" she asked, her eyes widening, as if already seeing the dangers that awaited them.
"Yes, Mrs. Wilks, but not till the season starts in October. So you will have us all summer!" Ashton said with a smile, then bounded forward, kissed her on the cheek, and ran inside to try his hand on the harp, which he insisted he was picking up a real talent for.
Violet tried to slip past the stunned Mrs. Wilks, but she caught her arm. "You'll be a good and proper young lady, won't you?" Mrs. Wilks asked, putting her other hand on Violet's arm. "Your father is a good man, but he doesn't see how dangerous the city can be to a young girl. You won't do anything that might shame him?" She looked Violet up and down, a pleading look in her eye, her chin jiggling slightly.
"I'm always a good daughter," Violet said with an innocent smile. This did not fool Mrs. Wilks, who had long ago learned that mischief was native to Violet's soul. She knew Violet had a good heart, but also knew Violet was willful and independent, and not in the least bit ordinary. She loved Violet, in her way, but she also feared that one day Violet's forthright nature would land her into the sort of trouble from which Mrs. Wilks could not extricate her. So she stared at Violet a little while longer, hoping to transfer some of her own reserved nature into the girl through eye contact, until Violet smiled again, curtseyed, and left the hall, heading toward her bedroom.
The estate, called Messaline, was one of those large and traditional manses of the gentlemen scientists of the day, just outside of London. Though originally decorated in natural hues which suited the late Mrs. Adams' taste, in recent years, Ashton had made changes to modernize the décor, creating striking contrasts of ivory and ivy, brown and gold.
Though he had often tried to bring his sensibilities to Violet's bedroom, Violet insisted it remain untouched by Ashton's renovations. It was a room unencumbered by the sorts of dolls and pillows that were so often found in young ladies' bedrooms of the time. The only indication that this was in fact Violet's room was the many books piled up on her dressing table, texts by Babbage and Ada Byron, John Snow, and of course, Duke Algernon of Illyria, the great scientific mind of the age. All his books, from his first, The Mechanics of Biology, published in 1840, until his last, Transplantation of Living Organs to Better God's Creatures, published a few years after his death, lined the shelves where another girl would have kept her powder and sewing supplies. Several large, shabby notebooks were piled on her writing desk, their pages frayed and sticking out from under the worn leather covers.
Excerpted from All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen, Liz Gorinsky. Copyright © 2011 Lev AC Rosen. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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Meet the Author
Lev AC Rosen grew up on the lower west side of Manhattan. He attended Oberlin College and got his MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence. When he was twenty-three, Lev’s short story, "Painting," was the inaugural piece for the "New Voices" section of the renowned Esopus magazine. He was also the fiction editor for Lostwriters.net, on which he had a weekly column. Lev lives in Manhattan.
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All Men of Genius, by Lev AC Rosen, has got to be one of my favorite reads this year so far. Having delved into a few other young adult novels recently and being sorely disappointed, I found this book to be an absolute joy to read. Besides, who can resist a tale of gender-bending subterfuge with a generous dose of steampunk to boot? The characters were likable, the dialogue witty, and the juxtaposition of gender stereotypes between Violet and her brother Ashton was very well done. While Ashton was a self-proclaimed dandy with a bent for poetry and the arts, Violet thought very little about her appearance and cared only for science. I loved (and could relate to) her desire to figuratively thumb her nose at the people who insisted that only males be accepted through the doors of Illyria College, the school widely known as the only place to go for the scientifically inclined. Gender equality battles aside, the mysteries surrounding the founders of the school, the mishaps in the school's labyrinthine basement, the romances between the various characters, and Jack's surgically altered animals (my favorite being the foul-mouthed rabbit) are enough to keep any reader enthralled long past bedtime.
I'm in love. Yes, in love. I didn't think it would happen again so soon. But then, I am sort of easy when it comes to a fabulous book. I found All Men of Genius to be an insanely clever, delightful and captivating book, worthy of a spot on any book lover's shelf. My love for All Men of Genius happens to be of the "At First Sight" variety. When I eagerly opened the package from Tor, and slipped the book out, I sighed. Yes, I happen to be a cover snob. I'm not ashamed of that. I thought the cover was beautiful, with a picture of Violet as Ashton with the gears placed behind her. Then, I actually opened the book. When I read Lev Rosen's author notes and acknowledgements, I knew I would adore All Men of Genius. Honestly, when an author writes such witty lines there, you know the book will be brilliant. And it was. I can't think of one single aspect of All Men of Genius that I didn't love. The characters were radiant, courageous and charming. The main character, Violet was fabulous. She is a feminist way ahead of her time. She is fully committed to showing the world that women have a place in the scientific community. Violet is willing to do whatever is necessary to prove her worth, knowing that abuse, prison or death may await. Ashton, Violet's twin brother whom she impersonates, is what in late-1800s England, called a "dandy", a gay man. Rosen took a character who could have become a caricature a wrote him brilliantly. Here's why. Ashton is not exactly flamboyant, but he doesn't hide his true self, either. In fact, Ashton's orientation isn't an issue at all amongst his family and friends. Even when Violet inadvertantly catches him in compromising positions, she is embarrassed only because she caught him in general, not because she saw him with another man. Ashton is completely devoted to Violet and her cause, helping her in any way he can. I want to include all of the many characters I loved in my review, but I simply cannot because the list is long. There are so many characters in All Men of Genius. In another author's hands, the amount of characters would be too much. But Rosen managed to subtly weave a new characters into the story, bit by bit. There's Jack, Ashton and Violet's best friend and confidante, who plays an integral part in the story. Ernest, the head of Illyria, and his cousin Cecily, Toby and Drew, Mrs. Wilkes, the many professors, Marion (perhaps my favorite character) and Fiona. See what I mean? All of those characters deserve a place in this review, but I'm sure you don't want to read a book about a book! I read that All Men of Genius was inspired in part by The Importance of Being Earnest. The book is full of mistaken identities, gender confusion, comedic situations and misunderstandings, so I definitely picked up on that. I happen to love that movie (check out the version with Rupert Everett and Colin Firth, my favorite). Besides being a completely delightful and thoroughly entertaining book, All Men of Genius does, in it's own clever way, touch on serious issues. Even though the book is set in 1880s England, I found the themes regarding sexual orientation and gender roles and discrimination to still be shockingly relevant today. And though All Men of Genius is considered and steam punk novel, it's a must-read if you love witty, funny and thought-provoking books. And really, who doesn't? On a side note, I adore author Lev AC Rosen's writing. He is an outrageously talented
I truly had a hard time putting this book down! Im generally interested in more action/adventure novels so the fact that i found this book so captivating is high praise! :)
Has hilarious moments; able to relate
All Men of Genius by Lev A.C. Rosen is a wonderful steampunk read with a Shakespearean twist. A story of a young girl’s aspirations for equality for woman. Violet Adams’ dream since she was a young girl was to go to Illyria College to study alongside other genius’ in the field of science. Unfortunately for her, this elite college accepts only male students, and Violet has decided to take it upon herself to find a way to gain access into this school and prove to all that she too is a genius and belongs within the walls of this prestigious school. So how does Violet go about accomplishing her dream? By posing as her twin brother, Ashton, and fooling her friends, the professors, and the duke of Illyria that she is a man. With the help of her brother Ashton, and their good friend, Jack, who coincidently also will be attending Illyria AND becomes Violet’s roommate, the plan goes off without a hitch. After successfully gaining access into the school as Ashton, Violet must keep up her hoax. She also develops an idea in which she will show her true self at the end of the year Science Fair when she presents her project for all to see. With Violet’s need for secrecy and being surrounded by an all-male environment, it is without a doubt that hilarity will ensue and that there would be many opportunities in which her guise could be discovered. Especially with the dukes cousin, Cecily, developing strong feelings towards Violet/Ashton and with Violet developing some sort of feelings towards the duke, Ernest, himself. All Men of Genius by A.C. Rosen was such an enjoyable read. The characters were easily likeable, and though the storyline may not be that original, the story itself was fun to read. Not only was it about Violet’s need to keep her secret, but also revolved around the mystery surrounding Illyria was a fun element in the story. With the different encounters that Violet and her group of friends come across in the school’s basement, it was that aspect of the story that kept me hooked. There was so much blackmailing going on it was making my head spin, but it was also what kept the story interesting. I was constantly kept wondering how Violet would be able to keep up her ruse, especially when feelings were starting to surface all over the place. I really enjoyed the way in which the author introduced the backgrounds of the main characters in the story. Stories within the main storyline. I alsoreally enjoyed the action and pacing near the end of the book. It was so exciting and I loved how the author jumped from one character to the other, letting the reader know what each character was going through at the particular time. Of all the characters in the book, my favorite had to be Violet’s twin brother Ashton. Although he’s not found when the stories revolve around the escapades in the school, the parts where Violet and her friends spent their time with Ashton were my favorite. His attitude and personality was so fun and I couldn’t get enough of him. Fans of steampunk, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and the movie Who’s The Man (which I personally think is such a fun movie!) will really enjoy All Men of Genius.