The Mechanical - Ian Tregillis

Courtesy of my local library, I recently picked up The Mechanical as I thought it sounded interesting, even though I had bounced hard off this author's previous series, which was set in an alternate World War 2. 

 

This time around, we're still in the land of alternate history, but in 1926 instead. The world of The Mechanical is one where there has been a technical revolution, but it involves alchemy and clockwork rather than steam or electricity - the Dutch, who invented this technology, rule much of Europe and are engaged in a decades-long war with what remains of the French (mostly in their colonies overseas). Much labour, as well as policing and warfare, is done by clakkers, who are mechanical servants proscribed by a complex set of geas: orders upon orders, causing pain if not obeyed in a timely fashion.

 

Our story is told from the point of view of three characters: a priest who is secretly part of the anti-Dutch resistance (and to whom terrible things happen, turning him effectively into a human version of the clakkers), the woman who is New France's spymaster, and a clakker who gains free will during the course of the book. This is, however, not a book for you if you're squeamish, as there's one particular scene involving brain surgery that made me wince and turn the pages a bit quicker. 

 

Apart from the aforementioned brain surgery, there's also quite a bit of mutilation going on in this book, so again if that's something you don't want to read about... I think the author just about manages to err on the side of not info-dumping too much but it's a close-run thing at times. These are not, by any stretch of the imagination, easy characters to write about as all of them do things that are less than noble, and we're also left with the inevitable cliff-hanger at the end of the book - the series continues with The Rising, so we'll see if the library has that one as well...