The Kingdom of Ohio

The Kingdom of Ohio

by Matthew Flaming


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An elderly man living in present-day Los Angeles is forced to revisit the history he has spent years trying to deny-the tale of a young frontiersman who comes to New York City in 1901 and quickly finds a job digging the first subway tunnels. He meets a beautiful mathematical prodigy who speaks of the vanished Kingdom of Ohio. Against the electric, mazelike streets and tunnels of New York City at the beginning of the mechanical age, the couple will find themselves involved with Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, J.P. Morgan-and wrestling with the nature of history, technology, and the unfolding of time itself...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425236949
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/07/2010
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Matthew Flaming was born in Los Angeles and studied philosophy at Hampshire College. He has an MFA from New York University. His work has appeared in 3River Review, Timber Creek Review, and Hobart Pulp. He lives in Portland.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Men ahead of their time wrestle with the fabric of the universe.

Flaming's debut ushers into a mystifying world, but its intriguing premise and inherent mystery are impossible to resist. Marrying poetic prose with hints of steampunk aesthetics to an arcane, time-wrenching plot that includes a healthy dose of wistful romance, the author unleashes an absorbing adventure about warring scientists, lost princesses and the genius who created modern New York City. In the present day, an aged narrator describes his dogged research into the collision of two unlikely characters. His confession hints at narrative ambiguity ("Telling the story is easy. It's just deciding which parts to include, finding a space to fit them all in, that gives me trouble."), but the author's execution is sure-footed. The story within takes readers back to the turn of the century, as Peter Force arrives in Manhattan just in time to start digging the city's newfangled subway system. Through his young protagonist's eyes, Flaming captures a city on the cusp of technological revolution, as electricity, airships and other marvels make all futures seem possible. Peter's work is interrupted by Cheri-Anne Toldeo, refugee from a mythical Midwestern kingdon founded by a minor European royal. She blames her sudden appearance on the misfire of a device created by Nicola Tesla, the acclaimed "Sorcerer of Electricity", which has sent her quite astray. The fantastic story line that follows revolves around the heated rivalry between Tesla and his rival, genius/patent thief Thomas Edison, who is being backed here by robber baron J.P. Morgan. "Villainy is a complicated thing, Miss Toledo," Morgan says, revealing a plot to gamble against the future. Though not as lush as Kurt Andersen's Heyday (2007), Flaming's wildly inventive fantasy is more fun to read and begs to be followed to its hurtly, heart-rending end.

A marvelous fable about the worlds beneath our feet and the conspiracies that turn our heads.
—Kirkus Review (starred)

"Absorbed by the twists and turns of the story, I felt like applauding every new idea, every conversation, every mystery, and every revelation! A memorable novel that makes me want to read much more of Mr. Flaming!"
-Michael Moorcock

"A beautiful fable about love, time, technology, and the birth of America."
-Robert Anthony Siegel

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The Kingdom of Ohio 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Los Angeles, the elderly antiques dealer has worked for two years on mystery of the photograph he obtained. The picture is that of Peter Force Cheri- Anne Toledo, taken in 1901. In 1900 Peter came from Idaho to work in the hazardous digging of the subways tunnels beneath the city. Cheri-Anne is a mathematical genius with bizarre memories that seem not of this time and place. They meet accidentally; at least that is what it seemed to Peter. When she insistently claimed to be the daughter of the ruler of the Kingdom of Ohio who traveled in time, he assumed she was crazy. However, he also is attracted to her and soon begins to believe her fantastic tale when others seem overly interested in her including combatant inventors and warring financiers. Soon he will understand that past, present and future of time and place is relevant to the individual as all converge either to conflict or deconflict if free will is meaningful; just like the note left behind "CROATOAN". This is a superb time travel romantic suspense thriller that takes a deep look at the sordid underbelly, literally as well as figuratively, side of New York during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The story line is fast-paced in spite of the cerebral underpinnings as fans will relish the tour of the city as rarely seen in novels while being escorted by two strong lead protagonists and enhanced by the real persona they encounter. Matthew Flaming provides a great, intelligent yet exciting thriller. Harriet Klausner
mlake on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked what I read of this book but somehow it wasn't the book I picked up, ever. Maybe next time.
TeriPettit on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Kingdom of Ohio is one the most thought-provoking books with a "possible worlds" setting that I have ever read. While most alternative history books are devices to explore particular questions of "what would the present be like if the past had differed in such-a-such way", this one instead uses it as a device to explore the nature of history itself.The semi-negative reviews by upstairsgirl and suetu both demonstrate a failure to comprehend Flaming's intentions that speak much more to the readers' inattentiveness than to any failure on the part of the author.For example, they both somehow conclude that Flaming intends to disguise the narrator's identity:upstairsgirl: "Flaming's attempt to keep the reader from figuring out the narrator's true identity until the end of the story. (This attempt is less than successful.)"suetu: "Flaming obscures the identity of this narrator, but it¿s so obvious from the start who it is, that this, in itself, telegraphs the novel¿s ending."However, any careful reader will know that the reason the narrator's identity is obvious is that Flaming WANTS the reader to know who it is. He then wants you to think about why the narrator is being coy and oblique about his own identity. Even the narrator doesn't truly intend to hide his identity - if he did, he would not drop so many clues. What he wants is for his readers to accompany him in his journey from a state of denial and disconnection with his past, towards an attempt to recover and return to it. This journey is not possible unless we know who the narrator is - we must know what he is denying in order to perceive his denial. It is also not possible if we are initally told by him, because it would mean he had already progressed beyond denial before the journey began. Being led to guess the narrator's identity early, and be told it very late, is the only choice that would WORK, and yet these reviewers, with their blinders on, saw it as authorial ineptitude.Similarly, both of them found the copious footnotes pointless, despite the many signals as to what they were there for. Flaming is not using the footnotes (as suetu conjectured) "to blur the line between reality and fiction". He is using them to demonstrate the vast gulf between the past as seen through a historical footnote, and the past as it was lived.The primary theme of the book is what a feeble, thin, unreliable substitute both memory and historical research are for the richness of the past, and yet such poor substitutes are all we have. The narrator writes "I can¿t help but think that all this stuff about facts (in the footnote sense) is overrated anyway", and yet he fills his book with footnotes. He writes that he has come to believe that the meaning of the past lies in the forgotten minutiae of ordinary lives, that fictional accounts that make the reader feel what life was like are more true than facts in a history book, yet he cannot give up his dependency upon historical research. He clings to footnotes and moldy documents despite finding them unsatisfying because he wants desperately to recover the past, and CAN'T. They are his lifeline, and we are intended to both share his frustration with how inadequate they are, and to perceive his inability to give them up. The footnotes are the bottle to which the narrator is addicted.Googling them to discover which facts are shared with our reality, and which ones are unique to the alternative reality of the novel, may be an entertaining sideline for some readers, but it isn't what the footnotes are put there for. What they say is not as important as seeing that the narrator is compelled to include them.These reviewers have completely missed the point, but it isn't because the point is obscure, it's because they are so intent upon fitting the story into a familiar mold that they are missing the blatant statements as to what the point is, statements that are repeated on page after page. They skim past the narrator's many ruminations about the fr
justabookreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What happens when two people in love are separated? What happens to the love, the heartbreak? Can time and space shift?Peter Force, newly arrived in New York City in 1900, finds a job working on the subway system at first breaking rock and then repairing the machines that break and move the earth. One cold evening, he meets Cherie-Anne Toledo, and feeling sorry for her, offers her help. Cherie-Anne tells him an amazing tale of time travel and inventors that he can't believe but he also can't tear himself away from her or her story.Cherie-Anne is a mathematical prodigy and a member of the royal family of the Kingdom of Ohio, a place Peter has never heard of. While he is drawn to both Cherie-Anne and her story, he doesn't find it in himself to believe it. Although cautious, he finds himself helping her anyway intrigued by what he has heard.A lot of famous people make appearances in this book --- Thomas Edison, JP Morgan, and Nikola Tesla. Numerous footnotes dot the story adding odd notes and sidebars the narrator feels are necessary for the reader to have a complete understanding. These notes make you wonder about the narrator and his actual role in the story he is telling.The Kingdom of Ohio is a short book and a very rich one. It's about love, heartbreak, time travel, science and its impact on the world as well as its consequences. It's all about what we know and what we think we know. How something as simple as the light bulb can have such an effect on our lives and make us wonder where we are going and what the affect might be.I wasn't expecting the story I was told in this book but what I did find was very lovely. It's a grand love story, but not overly mushy or drawn out, that crosses time lines --- one solidly rooted in the present and one in the past kindled by old photographs and antiques. It will leave you with a lot of questions in the end about what really happened to these characters but in a good way. I highly recommend it.
amodini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book piqued my interest because it purported to be a time travel story, mixed together with all sorts of steampunk. And let me tell you, that time travel story it is, although not as full-blown as I would have liked. This is Matthew Flaming¿s debut novel, and he coming from a philosophical background writes as such. Thus the book is what I would call ¿dreamily¿ told, by an antique shop owner much past his prime, we gather, but yet unable to forget the past.There are two stories intertwining here, one of the antique shop owner, who tells us has that he has opened the shop, to hide away from the world. One day when he sees a photograph of a man and a woman in a book, he reminisces about the past. The second story is of a young man Peter Force, who in the early 1900s comes to New York from up North. For a living he gets a job working on New York¿s great underground railway, and one day, meets Cheri-Ann Toledo, a mathematical prodigy. Toledo, she says, is from the past, having arrived seven years ahead of her time, via a malfunctioning time machine. "I have a tale," she says, "that defies common sense and perhaps even belief. In fact I considered inventing some other story to explain the favor I will ask." It takes Peter some time to untangle this statement. He nods and she closes her eyes, swaying slightly in her seat. "But listen," she continues, "and I will tell you the truth as simply as I can".At first, Force is wont to disregard Toledo¿s story as so much tale. But when the great inventors and entrepreneurs of that time, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan begin to wheel and deal for dibs on information on that time machine, he has no choice but to believe her truth.Flaming builds his story painstakingly; much of the book is footnoted. There is lots of detail and lots of philosophical musing. Flaming builds up the locales well; the book has a feel of being set in steampunk-land. The novel's narrator grapples with a wealth of information wondering what to tell us and what to leave out. Peter and Cherie-Ann¿s characters are a little stark; Peter¿s is built up relatively better, and I had a hard time picturing Cherie-Ann in my mind¿s eye. [And I tell you this because with the best reads, the descriptions are so fantastic that the story is like a second skin, and I have a hard time remembering whether I read the book or saw the film (if there was a film)]. We hear Peter and Cherie-Ann's story in the third person, and while we get to hear their thoughts, the language seems "heavy", and the words seem bigger than they are. Their romance is sparingly built up and it is hard to tell that this is the great passion which will spur this novel further."The Kingdom of Ohio" is an interesting novel, based upon nascent technology and prodigies and love. It also uniquely brings in Tesla and Edison, and their adversarial status as they war on AC and DC current distribution methods. And while it was hard to put down, it did not quite build up to the promised climax. The pace of the story is slow, burdened with copious footnotes, and little ¿action¿.And while I¿m not quivering with excitement at the thought of recommending this book to other readers, it is hard not to, because it was an un-put-down-able read while it lasted, and I know that it will appeal to some, whose patience and love of history is greater than mine.
lkernagh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Matthew Flaming's debut novel, The Kingdom of Ohio is a great story to escape in. First off, this story reads as two stories. One story, set in our modern times, is told from the POV of an elderly man that one day comes across a photograph in his antiques store. This photograph is the catalyst for his attempt to put into words a story that he has tried to ignore for decades. His attempt to write this story is the second story, which is set predominantly in New York City in 1901. This 'story in a story' focuses on two main characters: Peter Force - a young man in his early twenties that has recently arrived in New York City from Kellogg, Idaho and finds work as a laborer, then mechanic's assistant for the construction of New York City's subway system; and Cheri-Anne Toledo - a young woman with a mysterious past that Peter encounters on the streets of New York City. Cheri-Anne's story is a difficult one to swallow: she has traveled 7 years into the future from the Lost Kingdom of Ohio, where her father reigned as king over a frontier kingdom in, appropriately enough, Ohio. Understandably, Peter has some difficulty swallowing Cheri-Anne's story but he has a somewhat open mind and wants to help her try to return home, if he can.Other predominant characters of this 'story in a story' are the inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, and of course, the famous financier, John Pierpont Morgan. They helped make the story, and the footnotes, such a fascinating treat for me to read. Flaming brought these historical characters to life in a way that was easy to visualize; their appearances and personalities, medical conditions, foibles, as well as the historically documented on-going adversarial relationship between Edison and Tesla over their inventive prowess. As for Peter and Cheri-Anne, their adventures through the streets of New York were fun to follow.Part historical fiction, part mystery and peppered with footnotes of historical facts, I found it easy to fall into Peter and Cheri-Anne's world and obtain a refresher of some interesting pieces of history from the time period at the same time. The concept of time travel during the mechanical era when amazing advances in science and technology were occurring doesn't come across as some far fetched delusional dream and I think that is what makes this story work. An all around enjoyable read for someone that likes history, finds science interesting and enjoys a good tale.
upstairsgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In so many ways, this book has all the hallmarks of a great read. Electricity! The industrial age! Robber barons! Immigrants! The frontier! Time travel! Romance! And yet somehow it manages to weave all of these interesting topics, and interesting historical figures, into a bland and kind of plodding work of fiction. I'm not even sure exactly what the problem is with this book. It seems to have an ambivalent relationship towards its own departures from reality, which I think is unintentionally amplified by Flaming's attempt to keep the reader from figuring out the narrator's true identity until the end of the story. (This attempt is less than successful.) So much of the time-travel part of the plot goes unexplained, supposedly because of the limited knowledge the narrator is able to acquire. Here that reads as a cop-out for the author's inability (or unwillingness) to decide on an explanation and go with it, though. We never really understand who knows what, or how they know it, or what they're planning to do about it. The link between time travel and the construction of the New York City subway system is, likewise, never made clear - or even vaguely translucent - in a remotely satisfying way.It's a frustrating book. I wanted to like it. I was charmed by the cover, and the premise. I picked it up in the bookstore knowing nothing about the author or the story, and my usual trick for these things - flipping to a random page and seeing if the writing is irritating - suggested it would be great. It has a great, if slightly baffling website! It *should* be a good book. And instead it's just adequate, in my opinion.
lillasmee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A vivid, mechanical-age romance with a gritty sense of history. Loved the early section of the book, which beautifully conveyed the wonderful, rough, dirty, impoverished and dangerous world of the men who worked to build the tunnels of the New York subway system. So much left unfulfilled in terms of Tesla, Edison and time-travel technology, but a fabulous read nonetheless.
Litfan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had very mixed feelings about this novel. It's a good story, and it immediately grabbed my attention and had me riveted for the first half. Somewhere in the middle, though, it felt like it derailed, kept making efforts to find the tracks again, and never quite did.The novel begins when Peter Force, a worker helping to build New York's subway system, meets a strange young woman who claims to be a princess from the lost Kingdom of Ohio. Things become stranger for Peter when Cheri-Anne tells him that she has travelled through time to end up in New York.The novel is partly a history of this lost kingdom, partly a love story, and partly a look into the lives and imagined psyches of the most powerful, richest men in America, including Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan. It also explores quantum physics and the possibility of time travel/ parallel universes. Each of these in turn is fascinating. However, I think the ultimate difficulty with the novel is that it tried to take on too much at once and was never able to settle into any one of them deeply enough to be satisfying to the reader. It's a very original novel, and Matthew Flaming is a promising writer. I look forward to reading more from him and seeing him develop as a novelist.
SaraPoole on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An intriguing premise plays well with fascinating characters, including some drawn straight from history, and an unorthodox narrative form to create a compelling read. Flaming's debut novel reveals an author confident enough in his skills--justly so--to craft a "factual" accounting of fantastical events that play with the fabric of space and time. As the plot twists through the vividly portrayed underground of 1900s New York into modern LA, a sweetly poignant love story unfolds. The end is heart-rending but consistent and satisfying.
karieh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I started this book thinking I would be reading some historical fiction about the construction of New York¿s subway system. That aspect is there¿but it quickly becomes a sideline to the real story, which is¿which is¿well, there I¿m a bit stuck.Beyond a bit of story about said subway system, this is also a story of time travel, and long lost love, and a person from a long ago time trying to fit into a modern world, and Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla and J.P. Morgan, and a kingdom in the middle of the United States, and the effect of technology upon human life and the possibility of an infinite number of worlds like this one but unlike this one.I enjoyed reading this book¿I¿m kind of a sucker for time travel. And the historical vignettes were interesting and the story absorbed me¿but there was no emotional center of the book. There was no one character or idea that grabbed a hold of my imagination and sucked me in.The main characters are Peter Force and Cheri-Anne Toledo. The story of their meeting in New York in 1901 is ostensibly the heart of the book, but there is so much else going on that these two almost get lost in the shuffle. When they are allowed a moment to think outside of their parts in the plot, there was much I found to catch my interest.Peter, in the (close to) present day: ¿¿I can¿t help but think that all this stuff about facts (in the footnote sense) is overrated anyway. I wasn¿t a scholar growing up, but I remember learning that Christopher Columbus was a hero, and that the Civil War was about slavery. Now I¿m told that Columbus was a ¿hegemonic exploiter¿ and that Mr. Lincoln¿s War was fought primarily for economic reasons. In other words, even though more facts are instantly available than ever before, they also seem to be less factual, shifting between one momentary vogue and the next.¿(Which, as a side note, was true in my reading of this book as well. There were so many footnotes and seemingly factual facts that I Googled my way through the first part of this book, trying to figure out what was historical and what was fiction.)I suppose what resonated with me the most was the feeling of nostalgia¿the wishing for times past. The feeling of being swept up in a world that seems far beyond one¿s ken.¿I close my eyes. I understand that I am sick with the chasm between this world and the things that I remember. But if I can¿t forget and I can¿t find any kind of certainty, what is left?¿¿And that¿s the funny thing about memory, isn¿t it? Nothing is so near, and nothing else so unreachably far. Even as our memories define the essence of our selves, they turn on us, flitting away toward vague forgetting, changing shape (each recollection is a potential smiling Judas in the pay of time), and making us strangers to the past.¿I realize, this far into my review, that I have given little sense of what occurs in the book. I apologize for that, but I don¿t really have a good answer. Again, there is time travel, and a love story, and history, and technology and memories.In the end, I suppose, there is simply a debate about what did happen and what might have happened in this story. ¿¿these blinders that the comfort and complacency of our days depends on: we survive by shutting out the endless questions of what else might be.¿¿For a moment then, I feel a pinch of doubt. But really, I tell myself, maybe this is how the stories that we live finally end: with the blankness of a new beginning, beyond the maps of memory and history.¿Makes me wonder for just a second, if I started ¿The Kingdom of Ohio¿ again, right now, if the story might be completely different.
suetu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If only the author could go back in time¿I love debut novels and I love time travel stories. I love trying something new and potentially finding a favorite new author. Alas, that¿s not how it worked out this time. The simple truth is that The Kingdom of Ohio was a real slog to get through. More bluntly, it was the most boring time travel story I¿ve ever read. I¿m not going to go into great detail with regard to the plot, but the novel is set in New York in 1900, at the time that the subway is being excavated. Our hero is Peter Force, one of the subway workers. One day, while looking out the window, Peter sees a woman collapse and rushes out to help her. She¿s tattered, but beautiful. She tells him that her name is Cherie-Ann Toledo, and that she has traveled somewhat inexplicably seven years into the future, and from Ohio to New York. The basic questions of the novel are, is she mad, and if not, how did this happen and what does it mean?The story is stranded in a morass of superfluous detail. For instance, the world of this novel is exactly like our past (complete with starring roles for some of the preeminent figures of the time: J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison, and Nicola Tesla), except for one major thing: In the novel, there was once a ¿Kingdom of Ohio,¿ all but forgotten now. It was literally a piece of land sold to a French family during the early part of America¿s history, and ruled within this county¿s borders as its own kingdom (complete with King) for more than a century. It is this Kingdom that Cheri-Anne claims to be from, but really, what¿s the point?What, too, is the point of the copious and extremely tedious footnotes scattered throughout the book? Presumably the author was trying to blur the line between reality and fiction. This was simply a very bad idea. Additionally, the author used the device of a present day narrator telling the story in retrospect. Flaming obscures the identity of this narrator, but it¿s so obvious from the start who it is, that this, in itself, telegraphs the novel¿s ending.Flaming has attempted to write a time travel story in the tradition of Time and Again or The Time Traveler¿s Wife. In other words, a story strong on romance and weak on science, but again he fails, as I never grew to care about these characters or their relationship. Honestly, I didn¿t even like them very much.Again and again and again as I read this novel, I searched for redeeming qualities, but here I failed. The prose exhibits the clunkiness of a first-time novelist and the story bored me more than anything else. I¿m sorry, but I can¿t recommend reading The Kingdom of Ohio.
Kspina More than 1 year ago
This was a great "what if" alternate history fiction. The characters were engaging, and I could really see turn of the century New York even though I've never been to the city. I have to say though it's not an edge of your seat story. It's a page turner though. The reason I have to give it a 3 star is because the ending feels forced. It felt like there needed to be a way to end it in keeping with the alternate history. I enjoyed the story overall, and it was worth my time to read, but I don't think it would be a reread.
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ofabookworm More than 1 year ago
(Read full review: Another work of historical fiction I would not hesitate to suggest. With vague suggestions of the magical realism and New York focus found in Mark Helprin's A Winter's Tale, Matthew Flaming has crafted a novel of time-travel within the facts of history, a story of urban and mechanic power within the struggle for order, and a tale of love, passion and identity within the tangled mess of past, present and future. If you don't mind a bit of suspension of disbelief, and you appreciate the kind of story that weaves over and back into itself, you will certainly enjoy Flaming's debut.
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