Matthew Flaming

For his debut novel, Portland’s Matthew Flaming originally wanted to write about our own Underground Seattle. Instead, his turn-of-the-century fairy tale The Kingdom of Ohio (Putnam, $24.95) concerns the subway tunnels being dug beneath Manhattan. Where, owing to intrigue among J.P. Morgan, Nikola Tesla, and Thomas Edison, a time machine may also be under secret construction. A French-blooded princess in his historical charmer claims to be a time traveler herself, one who appeals to a skeptical sandhog for protection from the colluding titans of technology and finance. Time travel would cause chaos, she argues, a continual rewriting of history. Her own history is unclear, since she claims to be the last of a dynasty that once ruled frontier Ohio (before that state existed). Meanwhile, Flaming’s narrator keeps elbowing himself into the tale with footnotes and complaints about sourcing the story; he wants to believe, but the archives are unreliable. Memory is unreliable. “We all carry a half-imagined world inside ourselves,” says Tesla, “the world of our childhood and its lost wonders.” That world is Flaming’s Kingdom. T. BOND

Sat., Jan. 16, 6:30 p.m., 2010

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