A monster-hunting priest and his 16 year old protégé race across Europe in advance of a cavalry of steam-powered robots, while a young American reporter chronicles the first airship crossing of the Pacific – in reality a gun-running operation to arm the Russians. (from Goodreads)
Alternate history books are some of my favorite things! It’s the “what if” aspect that interests me. In Mechanicals, the “what if” is “what if someone invented giant killer Gundams and used them in the Crimean war (and also there’s a secret society of paranormal investigators fiddling with things)?” Paranormal steampunk just so happens to be ANOTHER of my favorite things, and so basically there was no way I wasn’t downloading this book when it was freebied last month.
What do I know about the Crimean war? Nothing, really, except that England and Russia were involved and that it’s one of the main thingies in The Eyre Affair. I don’t think not knowing about the war hurt me any, but like all alt. histories books I’d probably have been better off if I could identify major changes. I can’t remember if the cause of this version of the Crimean was ever really explained, either, which probably isn’t good. There was some confusing stuff at the end with Rasputin that I didn’t quite understand, and which I think confused the whole book’s plot for me. Up until he showed up, I THOUGHT I knew what was going on, and then suddenly I didn’t. Maybe I just got the various plotlines tangled up– I’m not sure.
There are three different plotlines in Mechanicals, which works well enough until it turns in four and then it’s just a little too much. All the lines come together at the end, though, which was very satisfying, if somewhat clichéd. I kinda think that the storyline as a whole would have been stronger with just one or two plotlines, though: the secret society plotline with Avery (the monster-hunting priest) and maybe the one with the captain who piloted the
Gundam mechanical. The two other plotlines could have easily been meshed into either of the other plotlines, and I think it would have made a tighter plot altogether.
So! Things I liked: the fantasy/sci-fi crossover, the interesting secret society1, and the airships! I also liked the captain character a lot (which is why I want his storyline retained, actually).
Things I didn’t like: the “romance” between Avery and his protégé, which felt very skeezy to me. He’s older than he looks and she’s 16 or so. I guess that’s old enough to get married and have romances, but he’s her official guardian and her teacher and it’s just GROSS. Plus he’s already involved with another lady! And then at the end he’s all “oh I can totally love you both,” without ever talking about it with either of his girlfriends. Yuck.
The protégé herself is interesting, though. When she first meets [Avery she hates/fears him, but when he offers her power (through education), she takes it. Then she starts manipulating him through romance and emotional blackmail. This is great stuff! It’s not very often you get to read about a woman character wanting power and then taking it. But it went wrong somewhere in the middle. She falls in love with Avery and becomes a drippy mess of a teenager. Argh! That, plus the skeeve factor, made me really uncomfortable for most of the book.
Anyway, besides all that I did enjoy reading Mechanicals. Yes, I was a little confused, and yeah, I didn’t like the romance. But I really liked the fantasy steampunk thing and on the whole this was a good read. I definitely want to read the next book (if there IS a next book)!
Read: January 10-13, 2013
- FINE, technically they’re just the Church of England. They still dress up in costumes and hold ceremonies, therefor: secret society! ↩