The Me­chan­i­cal

Wind- up wars

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Books -

Re­lease Date: 10 March 480 pages | Pa­per­back/ ebook Au­thor: Ian Tregillis Pub­lisher: Or­bit

A trea­tise on free will, or the lack of it, that pits a Catholic world­view against Calvin­ism in a kind of re- run of the Ref­or­ma­tion? Thought not. How about a clock­work- punk adventure story that sees a rump French state squar­ing up against a Hol­land that ram­paged through Europe us­ing an army of me­chan­i­cal be­ings called “Clakkers”, to be­come the world’s only su­per­power? Bet­ter?

The first vol­ume in Amer­i­can writer Ian Tregillis’s new Alchemy Wars tril­ogy, set in the 1920s, is a hugely en­ter­tain­ing novel rest­ing on the premise that his­tory changed rad­i­cally in 1671. This was the year when Dutch math­e­ma­ti­cian and sci­en­tist Chris­ti­aan Huy­gens pinched Isaac New­ton’s al­chem­i­cal re­search and mixed it with ar­cane clock­mak­ing knowl­edge.

Some 250 years later, it seems that not all Clakkers are in thrall to their hu­man masters, in­stead es­cap­ing a slav­ery that causes phys­i­cal pain if the bonded try to go against hu­man in­struc­tions. Why is this? And what does it mean for the world or­der? Th­ese are ques­tions Tregillis ex­plores from both a hu­man per­spec­tive and, more in­trigu­ingly, from the per­spec­tive of a rogue Clakker, Jax.

Re­fresh­ingly, it’s a novel that burns slowly, with Tregillis con­fi­dent enough to take the time needed to build his al­ter­nate re­al­ity – although he needs to spend more time work­ing at cre­at­ing char­ac­ters that don’t come across as so con­tem­po­rary and Amer­i­can. Jonathan Wright Tregillis’s first at­tempt at a novel, Space Raiders, turned into robot- shaped mazes af­ter about 10 pages. Well, he was eight.

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