Der Schachautomat

Der Schachautomat[Read] ➵ Der Schachautomat Author Robert Löhr – Vienna —Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen unveils a strange and amazing invention, the Mechanical Turk, a sensational and unbeatable chessplaying automaton But what the Habsburg court hails as the greates Vienna —Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen unveils a strange and amazing invention, the Mechanical Turk, a sensational and unbeatable chessplaying automaton But what the Habsburg court hails as the greatest innovation of the century is really nothing than a brilliant illusion The chess machine is secretly operated from inside by the Italian dwarf Tibor, a Godfearing social outcast whose chessplaying abilities and diminutive size make him the perfect accomplice in this grand hoaxVon Kempelen and his helpers tour his remarkable invention all around Europe to amaze and entertain the public, but despite many valiant attempts and close calls, no one is able to beat the extraordinary chess machine The crowds all across Europe adore the Turk, and the success of Baron von Kempelen seems assured But when a beautiful and seductive countess dies under mysterious circumstances in the presence of the automaton, the Mechanical Turk falls under a cloud of suspicion, and the machine and his inventor become the target of espionage, persecution, and aristocratic intrigue.

Robert Löhr was born in Berlin and grew up there and in Bremen and Santa Barbara, California He trained as a journalist at the Berlin School of Journalism, then worked for Sat News and for the Berlin daily paper Der Tagesspiegel, Berliner Zeitung, Neue Zeit, and Taz, and finally as a correspondent for the Washington Post After spending many years writing screenplays, musicals, plays, and shor.

Der Schachautomat PDF ´ Hardcover
    PDF Reader for the Connected World across Europe adore the Turk, and the success of Baron von Kempelen seems assured But when a beautiful and seductive countess dies under mysterious circumstances in the presence of the automaton, the Mechanical Turk falls under a cloud of suspicion, and the machine and his inventor become the target of espionage, persecution, and aristocratic intrigue."/>
  • Hardcover
  • 347 pages
  • Der Schachautomat
  • Robert Löhr
  • English
  • 12 July 2018
  • 9781594201264

10 thoughts on “Der Schachautomat

  1. says:

    A book about a dwarf who hid inside a mechanical chess machine to make it look like it would play chess autonomously. Different and exhilarating.

  2. says:

    I tried very hard to get into this, because, frankly, I had judged this book by its cover. It's an excellent cover, to be fair - all revolving cogs and wheels and jubilant aristocrats striking curious poses. Too bad the book itself is such a disappointment. It takes a wonderful story from history - the making of a chess-playing automaton, which was in reality an elaborate hoax - and turns it into a textbook thriller, with characters who aren't particularly interesting or memorable, and without any of the whimsy or steampunk one would hope to get out of such a topic. The main character is a dwarf who is a chess genius, and the real brains behind the automaton, but he is just as dull a character as the rest, vacillating between mindless religiosity and mindless sexual appetite. Not even in funny or interesting way. I had to put it down halfway through because the plot was plodding along far too predictably.

    The one thing I did think was handled well was the dwarf's friendship with a Jewish craftsman who had helped to build the automaton. At first the dwarf was really freaked out by the fact the guy was Jewish, and found all sorts flaws and annoyances in his character, and tried to avoid him. Gradually they're thrown together enough that he comes to tolerate him and eventually they became close friends. There was no sudden, modern epiphany of And so, the dwarf realized Jews really were okay after all! - it just sort of quietly happens behind scenes, which I felt was much more realistic for the time period.

  3. says:

    I picked this book up on whim from the public library's New Books section because the backstory is about an elaborate hoax during the 17th century Hapsburg Empire to build an automaton that could play chess as intelligently as a human being. I thought it was going to be like the type of creepy but enthralling stories that I had to read for a class on German Romantism, like Hofmannsthal's The Sandman (basis for the ballet Coppelia) or Mary Shelley's original Frankenstein.

    Except that instead of delving into what is the essence of being human, the grotesque or what happens when people use science to circumvent nature, it becomes instead a standard thriller with rote/flat characters. It also has two of my pet peeves in fiction: really bad/unpleasant depictions of sex (to the point that you have to wonder about the writer's own personal attitudes) and female characters who are types. Granted, the whore with a heart of gold who finds redemption is ultimately meant to be one of the more sympathetic main characters, but she never gets past the point of being a cliche. Plus the central relationship once the main narrative starts going is essentially a retelling of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (or Beauty & the Beast, take your pick). Which was really disappointing, given that I was expecting something along the lines of The Sandman, which is one of the weirdest, coolest things I've ever read.

  4. says:

    Perhaps a novel about a chess-playing automaton is not your ideal storyline. What if I told you that there was a secret behind the machine depending on a dwarf which traversed murder, revenge, and espionage? If those images spark your attention, then The Chess Machine by Robert Lohr is perfect for you.

    Don’t expect a traditional novel arc with The Chess Machine, as the book simply does not begin with the “usual” character introductions. This will reject some readers due to the novel’s somewhat flat beginning and lack of connection to the characters leading to a loss of depth and understanding of any underlying messages. However, take my advice and read on (it takes about 25 pages or so before the real excitement begins); and you will encounter an exciting and page-turning story with images similar to the film, “The Prestige”.

    Before being used to the format, the reader may stumble upon some confusion with the chapter layout which includes several storylines and jumps back and forth between current events and flashbacks/memories. Eventually, one begins to synchronize with the system and the story evolution begins to sweep the reader away. Further, like an aging wine (pardon the overused comparison); The Chess Machine becomes better as the story progresses and reveals secrets, twists, and inevitable intrigue. These surprising and expected turns literally result in the reader gasping out loud and add increased levels of excitement to the story. Basically, Lohr successfully implored elements of a mystery novel but without the “cheesiness” and more of the puzzle factor.

    One won’t follow the traditional character developmental arcs in order to better understand Tibor, Jakob, or Kempelen; but instead begins to understand the characters more and more as the story passes through with their actions which ultimately creates that desired bond. Furthermore, Lohr isn’t blatant in the underlying themes, but the ideals regarding ambition, greed, vanity, love, lust, companionship, life & death, and even war (just to name a few); come into play and the depth begins to shine all within a thrilling backdrop.

    Halfway through the book (around page 200), several events and characters (including Tibor) take a complete opposite route in their expected paths. This will either upset the reader due to the unexpected nature or it will add thrill to the unknown outcome. A very individualistic aspect of the novel was the constant rotating of which character was the protagonist or the antagonist. These roles would shift adding an almost bi-polar nature causing the reader to not know what will happen next. It reflected “real life” in terms of an individual having to adapt to situations for survival and not being firmly and solely committed to one role at all times.

    The Chess Machine follows an easy to understand language and yet isn’t annoyingly elementary. A component of class surrounds the style and essence.

    My major qualm was the ending which seemed to drag on. The plotline had a strong ending but Lohr continued to write. Basically, the novel could have ended firmly pages before it actually did.

    The Chess Machine is based on a true story, although depicting the early life of the Mechanical Turk which allowed Lohr to implore a large amount of historical liberties. Despite this, the novel isn’t “annoying” or fluffy and is certainly a unique theme and story which sticks out in the book crowd.

  5. says:

    (The much longer full review can be found at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)

    As regular readers know, one of the topics that often comes up here at the CCLaP website is of the slippery line between what we commonly refer to as mainstream literature versus genre; of not only where that line should be drawn, but of how we look at books differently based on what side it falls, not to mention the different smaller lines that can be drawn once you're on one side or another. For example, I'm a general fan of the science-fiction genre, as are many of CCLaP's readers; but then within sci-fi, I myself am a particular fan of a subgenre known as steampunk. A play on the '80s sci-fi term cyberpunk, it is basically a mix of speculative fiction and Victorian-era (or older) historical fiction, running with science-fictiony concepts based on real events from the time period; for example, what the world would've been like if computers had actually been invented back then instead of the 1950s, which actually did almost happen in real life except for the prototypes' prohibitive costs and enormous space requirements back then. At its aesthetic heart, steampunk is basically the attempt to take various high-tech concepts from our real present day, and retrofit them into beautifully-designed wood and metal forms, to imagine a world where robots work off of burning coal and double as exquisite objets de art, all for the good of our Glorious Queen and Her Empire.

    That's why I was so excited, after all, to pick up German writer Robert Lohr's first novel, the very smart and fun action adventure The Chess Machine; because it too can be technically counted as a steampunk novel, although in this case is set around a hundred years before most of the genre's other examples, or in other words the late 1700s. And that's because, interestingly enough, the core of the novel's storyline is based around an actual object with shady origins: an actual Mechanical Turk chess-playing automaton, in reality an elaborate hoax, well-known as a touring historical item in the 1800s but with society having collectively forgotten its beginnings. Lohr uses this lost origin to his advantage, taking the object itself and moving backwards in time creatively to imagine a colorful and danger-filled Vienna, when a cloudy haze existed between magic and science and where lots of hucksters were ready to step in and take advantage of it. The result is a delightfully exciting story, one that has more potential mainstream appeal than other steampunk novels because of it being rooted in reality; it is a book sure to thrill not only nerdy hard-edged sci-fi fans such as myself, but also those who love the mystery genre and straight-ahead historical fiction as well. There's a reason, after all, that the book rights have already been sold in twenty countries, and it wouldn't surprise me to hear of a major Hollywood deal at any moment too.

    So as mentioned, probably the best place to start a discussion of The Chess Machine is...

  6. says:

    Based on mostly-true events of the late 18th-century in Europe, Robert Lohr's first novel recreates the life and times of the Mechanical Turk, an automaton created by Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen which could think and play chess in an attempt to win the attention of the Empress. What von Kempelen managed to do was to create a sensational stir across Europe with what actually was all a fancy hoax. Lohr takes some creative liberty and draws a murder mystery into the mix, of which causes enough suspicion of the Mechanical Turk to risk the downfall of the brilliant engineer, von Kempelen.

    There was a lot of promise at the beginning of the story - the 18th-century in Europe was a fascinating period, the idea of an automaton was a strong one, murder mysteries and hoaxes are great fun - but at some point the characters managed to lose some of their realism. The problem with writing historical fiction is that in order to be realistic, the characters based on true characters need to be realistic. Hard enough to know exactly how a baron of the 18th-century may act or talk, but it's harder even to not slip into basic and unoriginal personas. The protagonist is an Italian dwarf, a chess master; at first he seemed to be the most promising character. But then at some point he seemed to turn into a vehicle for the author to use in a series of sexual encounters, many of which became gratuitous after the first encounter which established the fact that he was Catholic and proud of it and he felt himself turning into a sinner.

    I wanted to like the whole thing, and while the author created a charming friendship between the dwarf and one of the engineers of the Turk, a Jew, I had hoped the rest of the story and plot would have been less predictable. I loved the European setting and the cameo appearances of real royalty, etc. throughout the story; but ultimately I found myself wondering why Lohr decided to make it a piece of fiction. I probably would have found my interest satisfied more had he written a nonfiction book about the Turk and von Kemepelen. According to the author's notes at the end of the book there are at least two pieces of nonfiction about this same thing written in 2000 and 2002 which I would like to someday get around to reading. For the time being, however, Lohr's book left me high and dry and sort of grumpy. Maybe it's just my general sour mood of the moment, or maybe I just had such high expectations of The Chess Machine that I actually wound up disappointed. It actually was just okay. Nothing more, nothing less.

    There seems to be a large population that genuinely enjoyed this book, so obviously it found its place in many hearts. Obviously not mine. I, sadly, was underwhelmed.

  7. says:

    I cannot remember who passed this book along to me but I've had it on my book shelf for nearly 3 years and finally selected it to read. I admit to a preference for Penguin Books because their authors are interesting and NOT run of the mill. So, the Chess Machine ... I gave it 4 stars because it kept my interest even though I do not play chess or know much about the game. It is based on a true story but the author surmised much of what was not known. It is a period piece (1760's to 1780's) which added to my enjoyment as the author maintained historical accuracy in setting and the cultures described.

    A solid read.

  8. says:

    A bit more dwarf sex than I am used to in a book about chess and 18th century European nobility but............

    I think that this novel falls into the trap that many books in the historical fiction fall into regardless of the subject. The fictional characters, or the events/dialogue created around the historical characters, are just not nearly as interesting as the actual events.

  9. says:

    Liked this one a lot - a retelling of the Von Kempelen chess Automaton beginnings and an extraordinarily compelling story of the three main protagonists (the Baron, ambitious, clever and only a bit unscrupulous to start in his quest for social and economic advancement in the cut throat world of the Austro-Hungarian court, his Jewish master builder Jacob, skilled but too fond of women and wine and the dwarf master chess player with a conscience Tibor who is by far the best-realized character) for about 2/3 of the book; unfortunately at some point, it becomes a bit too much soap opera and the action intensifies in a coincidence laden way so while still entertaining, the novel loses a little balance; an excellent ending recounting what happened later and the general story of the automaton after the Baron sold it in his later years adds to a very good book which falls just a little short of awesome but is still quite recommended

  10. says:

    I really wanted to like this book. Robert Löhr chooses unexpected, off-the-beaten-track subjects for his historical fiction. Unconventional and obscure historical events are right up my alley, so this novel promised to be a blast. Sadly, the book did not deliver.

    This was Löhr's debut novel and it shows. He didn't get the pacing right, nor was he able to give his characters any depth. The story revolves around a mechanical chess machine. The first machine able to think and play chess - or that's what everyone believes. In reality, it's all a hoax. Inside hides a man who controls the machine and plays the games. The story has all the elements for a great thriller: a mysterious machine with a secret, its ambitious inventor ready to defend the secret at all costs, the people around him trying to uncover said secret. It has spies, murder and jealous lovers. And yet Löhr doesn't construct this exiting story in a skillful way, resulting in a flat, unexciting novel about a dwarf in a cabinet.

    All characters are cardboard cut-outs whose actions you can see coming from miles away. Their emotional journeys are not fleshed out. I was especially disappointed with the shallow treatment of Tibor, the main character. He had so much good things going for him that would make for an interesting character, but Löhr didn't take any opportunity to give him any depth or any believable quality. There's no sense of personal journey about Tibor, even though the author clearly intended for him to have one. If en when the author describes some changes in his character, they seem to come out of nowhere, as there's no build-up. For instance, (view spoiler)[Tibor is a de facto prisoner when staying with Kempelen. He cannot leave the house for fear that someone might see him and guess the machine is a hoax. Yet, there's absolutely no sense of the claustrophobic quality of his stay whatsoever. There's never any mention of Tibor feeling locked-up. In fact, most of the scenes describe him sneaking out in a ridiculous disguise to have random adventures whenever Kempelen isn't home. Then all of a sudden, Tibor makes a spare key so he can go out whenever he likes and he doesn't have to feel locked up anymore. I didn't get the impression at all that he disliked being indoors all the time, so why should he make a copy of the key? (hide spoiler)]

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