Thursday, 30 August 2012

‘The Clockwork Sky: Volume 1’ – Madeleine Rosca (Tor)

So I’ve been feeling a little jaded with my reading, at the moment, with nothing really inspiring me to feel… well, anything really. That’s not a good place to be in, not if I want to give everything a fair shot, and (the other day) Sue suggested that it might be an idea if I started reading a few books that I wouldn’t normally look at. I thought she might be onto something, in a ‘jolting me out of a rut’ kind of way, and a couple of books have turned up that I wouldn’t normally look at so… lets do it :o) I still want to read those other books I spoke about but I’m going to try and shake things up a little with a few other books. Books like ‘The Clockwork Sky’ for instance.

I’ll quite happily read all the Manga you can throw at me, it’s just that not a lot of it seems to head my way and I don’t really know where to start myself. That’s why you will see some Manga here but not an awful lot of it. ‘The Clockwork Sky’ turned up at just the right time then, killing two birds with one stone. It’s not a bad read but I’ve got my reservations… Here’s the blurb,

London, 1895: Riots in the streets!

Erasmus Croach’s miraculous factory, Ember, has flooded London with steampowered automatons. The already suffering working class take to the streets to protest the jobs lost to these machines, and to quell the riot, Captain Thorn of Scotland Yard calls in Ember’s latest and greatest creation, the automatic police boy, Sky!

Meanwhile, Sally Peppers, Croach’s headstrong and brilliant niece, dreams of a life beyond manners and marriageability. When she escapes her overbearing governess on a motorized velocipede and joins a no-rules road rally through the slums, Croach sends Sky to bring her back, preferably alive. Together, the impulsive Sally and the naive Sky crash headlong into a mystery involving rogue automatons prowling the sewers, children disappearing without a trace, and a dark secret so big it could overturn all of London. But the biggest mystery of all is why Sky is the first robot who can dream....

‘…the biggest mystery of all is why Sky is the first robot who can dream...’ I’d say that the biggest mystery of all is why Rosca felt the need to signpost things so clearly with a cartoon villain who may as well just tell the police what he is up to. It really is that obvious right from the start. It was a good job that there was enough action, in the plot, to draw attention away from just where it was headed. I should be fair and say that there are still two more volumes to come where anything could happen. On the strength of this opening though, I can take a pretty good guess at what’s coming.

Why did I keep reading then? The dynamic between Sally Peppers and the steambot policeman Sky is one that you can’t help but follow. Sally’s rebellious nature and Sky’s programming bounce off each other in ways that may not affect the overall plot but make the ‘now’ really unpredictable and interesting. Sky’s dreams are also very intriguing and I can’t help but want to be around when we find out what’s going on there.

The ‘steampunk London’ setting isn’t particularly original but I did like how Rosca, albeit briefly, examines how this setting impacts on the life of regular people who have suddenly found themselves out of work because a steambot does it quicker and better. Some detailed artwork really captures the atmosphere here, I loved the moment where Sally and Sky find the massive pipe under London (no dialogue, minimal art and a lot of darkness…) but it tends to feel a little ‘rushed’ when things hot up. I had real trouble working out what was going on in the race for example. Sky also looks a little too much like Astroboy for my liking and what was Doctor Robotnik doing hosting the big race? I’m pretty sure this wasn’t done on purpose but it really didn’t help when I was trying to get into the swing of things.

I can see myself reading Volume Two though, despite my having a pretty good idea how it’s all going to end up. Sally and Sky are two characters that I’d like to get to know a little better and I’ll definitely be taking that opportunity when it arises.

Seven and a Half out of Ten

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