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The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson

BOTTOM LINE: A crazy-ass story that I thoroughly enjoyed

Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: 1 August 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“Present day: When a young anthropologist specializing in ancient technology uncovers a terrible secret concealed in the workings of a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll, she is thrown into a hidden world that lurks just under the surface of our own. With her career and her life at stake, June Stefanov will ally with a remarkable traveler who exposes her to a reality she never imagined, as they embark on an around-the-world adventure and discover breathtaking secrets of the past…

Russia, 1725: In the depths of the Kremlin, the tsar’s loyal mechanician brings to life two astonishingly humanlike mechanical beings. Peter and Elena are a brother and sister fallen out of time, possessed with uncanny power, and destined to serve great empires. Struggling to blend into pre-Victorian society, they are pulled into a legendary war that has raged for centuries.

The Clockwork Dynasty seamlessly interweaves past and present, exploring a race of beings designed to live by ironclad principles, yet constantly searching for meaning. As June plunges deeper into their world, her choices will ultimately determine their survival or extermination. Richly-imagined and heart-pounding, Daniel H. Wilson’s novel expertly draws on his robotics and science background, combining exquisitely drawn characters with visionary technology—and riveting action.”

My Thoughts: The Clockwork Dynasty is one of those books I thoroughly enjoyed while reading it. Yet, as I sit down and think about the story, I struggle to find the words of why I enjoyed it so much. While there is a lot of action, there are not very many surprises. Plus, the idea that June can solve a mystery that robots have not been able to solve is, frankly, ludicrous. However, it does make for a good story, and Daniel H. Wilson always entertains.

Where I struggle with the story is the idea that humans (or aliens – we really have no idea) were so advanced, they created these robots that run off of this special force trapped in a futuristic metal but that wear down like batteries over millennia. However, the outer trappings are all wood, leather, porcelain, and later plastic and polymers. Plus, these advanced humans (or aliens) created this race of superior robots and left. Then these superior robots were to serve the one trait/word they each harbor in their “heart.” This word gives them purpose, and if they do not live by this word it causes them physical pain. To top it off, all of this first occurred while humans were not much more evolved than Neanderthals. See? Weird.

But that’s not all! Then, there is this great schism of robot power, and they split into sides that are battling each other off and on over the centuries. When June first happens across the plot, the robots’ “batteries” are running out of juice, and they cannot figure out how to stop it. June is the only person or thing who may hold the answer to this mystery – because hundreds of thousands of years is not long enough for the robots to solve the mystery. Of course she partners with a good robot – as opposed to the bad robots who are trying to kill them – and rushes across the world to save the day.

Despite the absolutely bonkers plot, I loved this novel. I loved the inventiveness of it. The story begins slowly, but as it picks up speed it does so almost exponentially. Suddenly, there are fights and tactics and plane rides and rushing to stay one step ahead of the bad robots. It is the most ridiculous and yet engaging story I have read in a long, long time. The best part is that it is a series, so there will be more crazy robot history with the lone human female as the robots’ savior. I am way too excited about the possibilities!

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