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Grit in the Gears
Created by ggrihn on 9/4/2017 12:25:39 PM

clip_image002The Clockwork Dynasty, by Daniel H. Wilson

Reviewed by Gregory G. H. Rihn, Steampunk Chronicle Literary Editor.


A Clockwork Dynasty is the new novel by Daniel H. Wilson, author of Robopocalypse; Robogenesis; How to Survive A Robot Uprising, and other robot-related works.

In A Clockwork Dynasty, Wilson avoids the “robot apocalypse” theme, and instead enters a different genre, that of the powerful yet hidden beings that shape our world, usually a niche occupied by Illuminati, vampires, fae, or aliens.

The story begins in Russia, in the reign of Peter the Great, a ruler who was known for his technological and scientific interests. He acquired two automata of unknown age that had been dug up along a river bank in China, and had them meticulously restored. Much to everyone’s surprise, they are able to speak and think. One is the size and shape of a large man, and is named Piotr, or Peter, after the Czar. The other, Elena, has the frame of a young girl. Neither has any memory of their prior existence, and they seek to survive in the uncertain world of the Russian court.

Before they are forced out into the wider world, they become aware that they are not the only ones of their kind, and that they are part of a hidden world of power and secrets—including their ancient origin.

Part of the story is told in flashback. However, in the modern day, technological anthropologist June Stefanov becomes involved in the internecine struggles of the Avtomat, (the Russian word for automaton) due to her possession of a mysterious artifact that came into the possession of her grandfather during World War II. Rescued from hostile avtomat by the human-friendly Pyotr/Peter, there’s a distinctly Terminator 2-like vibe as the two go on the run to discover the artifact’s potential and significance before it is taken from them.

Wilson comes up with an audacious premise—a hidden race of clockwork robots, originally constructed in pre-history, who have secretly guided humankind’s technological advancement for their own benefit. The climax and denouemont slides back toward familiar Indiana Jones-style tropes, but managing to retain a few surprises.

Not, in my opinion, a great novel, but an enjoyable adventure story.

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