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The clockwork dynasty : a novel by Daniel H.…
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The clockwork dynasty : a novel (edition 2017)

by Daniel H. Wilson

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2361273,825 (3.63)6
Member:lbhlibrary
Title:The clockwork dynasty : a novel
Authors:Daniel H. Wilson
Info:New York : Doubleday, [2017]
Collections:New Books @ LBHS
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The Clockwork Dynasty: A Novel by Daniel H. Wilson

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
3 1/2 stars

Every time a book starts strongly from the very first pages, I know I might be in for a delightful experience: this was the case with The Clockwork Dynasty, and even though my initial reaction was curtailed by a few minor quibbles and a lukewarm ending that did not do justice to the story's buildup, still the journey was a fun one.

June Stefanov is a researcher who specializes in mechanical artifacts from the past, and when we first encounter her she is meeting with the members of a secluded religious sect in possession of an ancient doll whose intricate inner works bring June to the discovery of the avtomats’ existence. These are mechanical creatures built to resemble human beings, powered by a mysterious core appropriately called anima and able to function almost indefinitely.

June’s interest comes from a relic inherited from her grandfather, who survived the bloody Stalingrad siege during WWII and witnessed an extraordinary sight: a tall, apparently invulnerable soldier who was able to crush German troopers and tanks as if they were made of paper, and in whose wake young Stefanov found the artifact bequeathed to June – an avtomat’s anima.

From this point onwards, the story develops in two different and converging time tracks (with a few forays into a more distant past): the present follows June and her search for the key to the puzzle that so unexpectedly fell in her lap, and the past focuses on the avtomats Pyotr/Peter and his sister Elena, whose bodies were recovered at the time of czar Peter the Great and restored to function by the court’s latest mechanician. I found Peter and Elena’s track by far the more fascinating of the two: we see them gaining more and more awareness of themselves and the world from the moment of their re-awakening, searching for a purpose and trying to fulfill their Word, the defining command built into each avtomat’s anima, the element that determines their character.

Elena obeys logicka, the pursuit of knowledge and reason, and her struggles in that direction managed to endear her to me despite her sometimes brittle disposition: Elena has been shaped like a little girl, so that whoever looks at her, unaware of her nature, tends to take her at face value, seeing only the childish form and ignoring the keen intellect underneath. Peter himself tends to fall into this trap, if for different reasons: he considers her his sister and he works under the strong compulsion to cherish and protect her, and as well-meaning as this urge is, Elena chafes under what she perceives as a smothering influence, one that prevents her from following her own directive. In the long run, this situation creates between them a rift that keeps them apart for centuries, always leaving an empty place in Peter’s soul, one he seems unable to fill.

Being bound by pravda, a combination of truth and justice, Peter tries to obey his Word by seeking rulers to serve, but time and again discovering none of them are worthy of his loyalty, and that he’s ultimately betraying his basic commandment, so that he becomes increasingly despondent. If I could sympathize with Elena (the woman/child no one could take seriously), I felt deeply for Peter and his search for the purpose that could define him, and give his existence meaning: it might have been easier for his sister to adapt to a changing world, since her ceaseless studies helped her better understand herself and her place in the world, but Peter does not enjoy such luxury, so we see him searching in vain for that meaning, only to have it always escape his grasp. Part of the problem, as we learn along the way, comes from the loss of memory resulting from a catastrophic shutdown: needing to recapture his lost self, Peter latches on the closest thing, his connection to Elena and the strong feelings of family she engenders. Those feeling come across as quite poignant considering Peter’s nature: we often think of machines – no matter how sophisticated – as logical constructs devoid of emotion, but these avtomats are something else indeed.

Given the intensity of the narrative threads focused on Peter and Elena, the chapters devoted to the present and June's journey of discovery feel like something of a letdown. For starters my impression was that she was there as a mere tool, someone needed to connect the various "dots" and therefore not deserving of full character development: I never felt any connection with June as a person, not in the same way and with the same depth as with Peter, or Elena. Worse still, June shows several markers for the Mary Sue Syndrome: she's exceptionally good at what she does, she can solve problems on the fly, and she shows impressive amounts of courage and physical endurance that don't match with her personality as an academic. If her character makeup wanted to give off a Sarah Connor vibe (and the beginning of the book did remind me a little of the first Terminator movie, thanks to the encounter with Peter's nemesis and his relentless chase), I'm afraid that from my point of view it missed the mark.

This, and the ending that felt quite anticlimatic, did detract a little from my initial appreciation of the story, and downsized the rating I was ready to assign at the beginning - still, it was a good, entertaining read and I don't regret the time I invested in this book.


Originally posted at SPACE and SORCERY BLOG ( )
  SpaceandSorcery | Dec 25, 2018 |
RGG: Interesting contemporary thriller interesecting with steampunk. A fun read.
  rgruberhighschool | Jul 9, 2018 |
So, bonkers is as good a word as any to sum up the plot of the book. I use the term plot loosely.

I've read some stinkers and this book wasn't quite that, but neither was it particularly rewarding. This book is the book equivalent of the Transformers movies with June being Shia LeBouef (or equivalent). There's mayhem, explosions, chases, but in the end...nothing much happens.

I read Robopocalypse back when it came out and felt the same way. Big hype, somewhat of a let down in the read. If there were more books in Clockwork Dynasty series, I wouldn't seek them out.

Some impressions/questions without spoilers:

- Switches between the perspectives of Peter/Eleni past (and their...history, I guess? Or the 2.0 version of it, anyway with Gepetto or Fabio or whatever their kindly mechanist/reviver was called) and Peter/June present. June is a human who accidentally stumbles onto an age-old war between Avtomat factions who are fighting over the ability to live eternally or something. Which isn't really much of a prize, because there's much ado about how tired and lonely they already are from living eons and being ancient creations from earlier civilizations. So living forever, like the plot, is also relative.

- There is some action, most of it involving Avtomat vs. Avtomat with human collateral damage when they get in the way of the warring intelligent machines that look like humans. None of whom are central to the story.

- In the end, it seems they destroyed the big baddie. But also, the Avtomat they thought was their savior turned out to be bad too? Or something. Good thing they saved the souls of some of their Avtomat friends who turned out not to be strong enough to have fended off the baddies before. Or something.

- There's a weird relationship between June and Peter. Her main role seems to be awestruck in their presence, repairing machinery, and taking cover in Avtomat combat scenes. A couple of times we're told that 'she was chosen' or some such. But she basically just inherited an odd piece of metal from her grandfather that turns out to be important to the Avtomat. That's more fate than selection. But, semantics or something.

- There's also a weird scene where Peter, the Avtomat essentially 'Pretty Woman's' June taking her on a luxury jet and buying her diamonds? Huh?

In short, the underlying theme (I think) explores whether intelligently designed machines/robots can develop souls. That's potentially interesting, but it deserves a better book. Or something. ( )
  angiestahl | Jun 6, 2018 |
I’ve been in a reading slump lately, that’s for sure. Nonetheless, I’ve finally finished reading The Clockwork Dynasty, a novel by Daniel H. Wilson. This marks my first foray into the work of steampunk books (believe it or not). I’m not entirely sure how I feel. In some ways, this book is great. In others, not so much.

The Clockwork Dynasty creates an alternative line of history. In this world, machines act under the guise of gods and powerful humans. Using their power, they direct the future of mankind as they see fit. For their own benefit, of course. These machines, or avtomat, seek to prolong their own lives, no matter the cost.

One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen about The Clockwork Dynasty is its lack of originality. Because I haven’t read books like this before, I can’t really weigh in on that opinion. However, I do feel that this is not the best example of steampunk for someone new to the genre. Why? Because it doesn’t have a steampunk feel. Science fiction is about as close as this gets.

Nonetheless, Wilson has created some characters that I have truly fallen in love with. Those that know me personally know I have a special fondness for villains. Leizu, the Worm Mother, is beautifully written and so horribly amazing. As a villain, she balances out the heroes of the story pretty well – though honestly, she strikes me more as misunderstood than truly evil. She’s an embodiment of chaos, after all, and to that form she certainly fits. The main characters, June, Peter, and Elena, are great in their own ways – for the most part. While Peter and Elena are fully fleshed out, I can’t help but feel that June is incomplete.

I’ve been struggling with whether or not to give this book three or four stars. Ultimately, I’ve decided on the former and this is why: it takes too damn long to pick up. Additionally, the flow is horrendous. Each chapter alternates between June and Peter, with June as the present and Peter as the past.

I would like to thank the author, Doubleday, and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. ( )
  agrimscythe | Mar 20, 2018 |
There are many authors and many novels that try to send you to the past, bring you back to the present, and have every page be a different moment in the timeline, and few do this well; this is one of those books that does it perfectly! Without the use of flashbacks the story probably wouldn't have tied together so well. The combination of landscape description, development of characters, the accuracy of the history, and the utter insanity of the plot combine beautifully to wrap you in this potentially different version of your actual world. Also, the intensity and utter realism of the Avtomat will screw with your head, in a terrifyingly good way. As I finished this book I found myself hoping for a sequel or a series or a never ending epilogue because I could not give this book up easily. I read every single word on every single page, not in the fear of missing something but rather in the desperation that I wasn't ready for this story to end. ( )
  BrainyHeroine | Mar 20, 2018 |
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In attempting to construct such machines we should not be irrelevantly usurping His power of creating souls....Rather we are....instruments of His will, providing mansions for the souls that He creates. -- Alan Turing, 1950
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The age of a thing is in the feel of it.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385541783, Hardcover)

An epic, ingenious new thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse, The Clockwork Dynasty weaves a riveting path through history and a race of human-like machines that have been hiding among us for untold centuries.
 
In the rugged landscape of eastern Oregon, a young scientist named June uncovers an exquisite artifact—a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll whose existence seems to validate her obsession with a harrowing story she was told by her grandfather many years earlier. The mechanical doll, June believes, is proof of a living race of automatons that walk undetected among us to this day. Ingeniously hidden inside the ancient doll is a lost message, addressed to the court of Peter the Great, czar of Russia.

Russia, 1725: Peter and Elena, two human-like mechanical beings, are brought to life under the watchful guise of Peter the Great. Their struggle to serve in the court of the czar while blending in, and to survive‎ amid those who fear and wish to annihilate them, will take Peter and Elena across Russia, Europe, and, ultimately, across the centuries to modern day.

The Clockwork Dynasty
is Daniel H. Wilson's masterful new novel. It seamlessly interweaves past and present, exploring a race of beings that live by different principles than humans, but ultimately value loyalty. As June learns more about these beings, she is quickly drawn into a fierce battle that has spanned the centuries, and will ultimately determine the survival or extermination of this ancient race. Richly-drawn and heart-pounding, Wilson’s novel expertly draws on his robotics and science background, combining exquisite characters with breathtaking technology—and unmatched action. The Clockwork Dynasty is a riveting, breakout novel.

(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 25 Feb 2017 11:31:27 -0500)

"An epic, ingenious new thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse, The Clockwork Dynasty weaves a riveting path through history and a race of human-like machines that have been hiding among us for untold centuries. In the rugged landscape of eastern Oregon, a young scientist named June uncovers an exquisite artifact--a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll whose existence seems to validate her obsession with a harrowing story she was told by her grandfather many years earlier. The mechanical doll, June believes, is proof of a living race of automatons that walk undetected among us to this day. Ingeniously hidden inside the ancient doll is a lost message, addressed to the court of Peter the Great, czar of Russia. Russia, 1725: Peter and Elena, two human-like mechanical beings, are brought to life under the watchful guise of Peter the Great. Their struggle to serve in the court of the czar while blending in, and to survive‎ amid those who fear and wish to annihilate them, will take Peter and Elena across Russia, Europe, and, ultimately, across the centuries to modern day. The Clockwork Dynasty is Daniel H. Wilson's masterful new novel. It seamlessly interweaves past and present, exploring a race of beings that live by different principles than humans, but ultimately value loyalty. As June learns more about these beings, she is quickly drawn into a fierce battle that has spanned the centuries, and will ultimately determine the survival or extermination of this ancient race. Richly-drawn and heart-pounding, Wilson's novel expertly draws on his robotics and science background, combining exquisite characters with breathtaking technology--and unmatched action. The Clockwork Dynasty is a riveting, breakout novel"--… (more)

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