Lord Kelvin's Machine has been this reader's introduction to James P. Blaylock and a very good one. The reason(s) for this involve good characters, an interesting storyline, and, naturally, steampunk. While the last may not necessarily be every reader's favorite sub-genre, this read is (for me, at least) better than some others I have read.
First, the characters. At first glance, they may seem simplistic. There is Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, an admittedly evil man who wants to do harm and is responsible for setting another character on a tragic path. There is Professor Langdon St. Ives, the aforementioned character, is not only set on stopping Dr. Narbondo, but is set on revenge as well. Jack Owlesby is....entertaining....in an accidental adventurer kind of way. For the most part, the characters evolve over the telling of the story.
Second, the story. Reading Lord Kelvin's Machine may come across as a little disjointed between the three sections, although a good read, but is not an impediment. Upon a little bit of research, I found out that, aside from the prologue and epilogue (which tie the story together), the three parts of the book were three separately written stories (per http://www.sybertooth.com/blaylock/kelvin.htm). The story within the book titled "Lord Kelvin's Machine" first appeared in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in December 1985, "The Drowned Ships" was previously unpublished, and the third story is titled "The Time Traveler".
Finally, the steampunk elements. Namely, Lord Kelvin's (who is also St. Ives' neighbor) machine. It is, for me, a character in and of itself - an electromagnetic machine that could possibly function as a time traveling machine. It can be used for evil (as Dr. Narbando would like to do) or for good.
Overall, the book is a good read. It has a good pace, albeit not a frenetic, breakneck one. The story has reasonably agreeable characters and contains steampunk.
Within the magical gears of Lord Kelvin's incredible machine lies the secret of time. The deadly Dr. Ignacio Narbondo would murder to possess it and scientist and explorer Professor Langdon St. Ives would do anything to use it. For the doctor it means mastery of the world and for the professor it means saving his beloved wife from death. A daring race against time begins...