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The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson

“The Clockwork Dynasty is my new favorite secret history novel! It’s like some fantastic hybrid of Highlander and The Terminator–or maybe a cross between I, Robot and The Difference Engine, with a dash of Blade Runner for good measure. It reads like classic steampunk on steroids. In other words, it’s totally bad ass and you’re going to love it.”
–Ernest Cline, The New York Times bestselling author of Ready Player One

“Brilliantly conceived and executed . . . this is science fiction at its best—thoughtful, challenging, beautifully written and astonishing.”
–Booklist (starred review)

“In The Clockwork Dynasty, Daniel Wilson, the king of the robothriller, mixes robots, history and non-stop action to create a thoroughly original plot. Think The Terminator meets Indiana Jones with a crash course in history thrown in. A thoroughly enjoyable read.”
-Phillip Margolin, New York Times bestselling author of Violent Crimes

“With The Clockwork Dynasty, Daniel H. Wilson has created a ripping, pulsing whirlwind of a world: a sweeping tale of forgotten secrets and wars, of empires and those who topple them, of identities given and taken away, of robots who seem to know better than we just what it means to be human. This is Wilson’s most adventurous, romantic, utterly thrilling work, and it’s not to be missed.”
–Jason Gurley, author of Eleanor

“This bold adventure is a stew of cult-classic concepts—the avtomat reflect the Immortals in the Highlander franchise, while the ancient and deadly Elena is reminiscent of child vampire Claudia in Interview with the Vampire. It may wear its influences on its sleeve but it’s also a welcome treat for steampunk and fantasy fans. A thrilling mix of influences, much like Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants and HBO’s Westworld, that creates a captivating scenario begging for many sequels.”
–Kirkus (starred review)

“The Clockwork Dynasty is a hybrid: engrossing historical fiction starring ancient androids and mile-a-minute present-day action thriller . . . June’s mad dash to flee a secret society bent on taking her knowledge and her life evokes the best moments of Dan Brown.”
–Shelf Awareness

“In the spirit of some of my personal favorites (He, She, and It and The Golem and the Jinni), The Clockwork Dynasty imagines a world where ‘artificial intelligence’ is something altogether different, and where the meaning of ‘human’ has become more than flesh and bone.”
–Veronica Belmont, host of The Sword and Laser

“Action-packed and uniquely imagined with robots–and history!–like you’ve never seen before, The Clockwork Dynasty is a thrilling ride from start to finish.”
-John Joseph Adams, series editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy

Review

Oregon (present)
Moscow 1709
Saint Petersburg 1725
Great European plains 1725
Helsinki 1725
London 1725-1758
Seattle (present)
India 1751/57
Stalingrad 1942
China 3000 BC
China present
London present

June
Peter
Elena
Giacomo Giuseppe Favorini
Tsar Pyotr Alexeyevich
Catherine Alexseyevna
Leizu . . . the Worm Mother.”
Hypatia
Talus
Batuo
Huangdi

 

Epic, it does feel that, as the title is Clockwork Dynasty, you are taken through a dynasty in the lives of two main automat Elena and Peter, and in the present with the human June.
The story is divided into chapters between the machines Automat and with Jane, Indian Jones like with a whole load tech know how. She begins the ball rolling a shift in the timelines fate, with a 3D printer ability to add a piece to a relic.
This dynasty story, this telling of these machines, but more than machines, they have been raised to some codes, one a warrior trained in arts of fighting, sabre, lance and musket of old, and over centuries to modern present with vast funds and technologies, weapons.
Technology advanced forward their form changed but their essence the same, a race for survival unfolds and while us great glorious humans try to play catch up with these machines they need help from Jane, hope for a way to extend, give strength to what is at there core, like us with hearts and souls they have a main source too that needs strength they feel too but without blood or heart.

The author had done a great work with his debut Robopocalypse and its robot uprising, this is more about a history of something more than just robots and its finding itself, and its survival.
Ernest Cline mentioned in his praise about this tale as being a hybrid of Highlander and Terminator I see that and also that of Hugo, Indian Jones and some parts Game of Thrones, without the sex and profanities he has kept violence in but cleaner that other tales.

Daniel Wilson, the author, vividly takes you through the timelines of the automat alternating to the present with our hero June. They served many leaders from Tsar to kings but what they need also are answers to the code they live, the real truth, and anarchy of sorts a journey within a robot at battle with its self, why serve, why not live for us some tell in this tale. A vivid sense of place and journey, the scenes, the thrill, the battles all told from first person narrative, captivating everything evoked within the reader with skill, the right scenes, the write chapters never lulling in its immersiveness and visceral state.

“Over these past millennia we have become stronger and more humanlike, but the anima that we each carry is inviolate—ancient and beyond our understanding.”

““As paragons. We are the physical embodiments of virtues prized by the First Men. Logic. Justice. Valor. The balance of chaos and rebirth. The only pain we can feel is that of failing our Word. To not serve is to defy your existence. It is the bite of the void.”

“My shape is that of a man, crafted in perfect proportions. Long golden legs, light winking from hundreds of rivets. My skin is made of bands of a beaten gray-gold metal, fastened to a solid frame. Through narrow gaps in the tops of my thighs, I see rows of braided metal cables, pulled to tension, wrapped around circular cogs. When I move, I hear a clockwork grind coming from inside. “Hello?” murmurs the old man. “My son?” The consonants of his language echo in my mind, resolving into words. I can almost remember hearing his voice before. Lessons whispered in my sleep. Gnarled fingers wrap around my wrist. Faintly, I can feel the heat inside the man’s hands. I sense he is full of warm blood, carrying energy through his body. His skin is not like mine, nor his heart. There is no blood within me, for my father and I are not alike. He is a human being, and I am . . . something else.”(Moscow 1709)

“At my full height, I see my movements reflected in the gleaming panel. I am tall and thin. Very tall. My face is smooth, chin dimpled, eyes sharp and predatory over a straight nose. Ringed in brown curls of hair, my face is only crudely human. My lower lip is pulled to the side, slightly disfigured. I am not wearing clothes. Instead, my chest and arms are layered in beaten metal banding with occasional tight swathes of leather tidily placed underneath. A winking light haunts the depths of my brown eyes, and I now understand why Favo has awe in his voice.”

“And die. You have become visible to the avtomat. They will hunt you for the relic and for what you know about them. These creatures have survived for centuries. They are desperate. Too many have already reached the end of their power reservoirs and expired. They will kill you for the slightest hope of prolonging their own survival.”

“Certain rhythms settle into focus with the passing of time. The faces around me careen through adolescence and youth before collapsing into wrinkles and then finally disappearing. Each of these people imagines she is the same person day to day, but I can see how their lives rise and fall in cycles, moving through the same patterns as their ancestors, bricks in a city that is constantly being rebuilt.
My only solace is in seeing Elena at her writing desk, fingers clasped around a fountain pen, dipping and scrawling her messages to great minds all over the world. It always reminds me of my first sight, the gentle contour of her porcelain cheek.”

“Each avtomat has a unique anima—our mind, memories, and will. The symbol written upon it is his true self, the Word he lives by.”

“Without the mind, the body is dust,” says Batuo. “A vessel without its anima is but a husk—it cannot perceive or act. But when placed in the cradle of its own unique vessel, anima will express itself as . . . avtomat.”

“Not a waste. Without technological progress, the avtomat will certainly die. We are survivors of a cataclysm that has passed out of all memory. And we cannot afford another fall of civilization—our power will not last until humankind rises again.”
“So you think we’ll save you? We short-lived?”
“Maybe,” he says. “Maybe without even knowing it. Watch how many of your billionaires spend their money on spaceflight, materials science, artificial intelligence, transportation, nanotechnology, brain research. It is not a coincidence. The avtomat have resources, and we need basic science. We need to understand ourselves before the last of us runs out of power. Because then there will be no one else to start a new age.”

This man-shaped artifact has borne witness to an incredible swathe of forgotten history. “You’re even older than that, Peter. Some of the components inside your frame. There are brass gears that look Greek, like something from the Antikythera machine. And deeper inside, I saw ceramic plates—pottery, really—with Chinese markings. The same for Batuo.”



Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 03 August 2017