cover image The Clockwork Dynasty

The Clockwork Dynasty

Daniel H. Wilson. Doubleday, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-54178-7

While the idea of a hidden history of sentient clockwork beings may be intriguing, Wilson’s execution is inconsistent and sometimes self-contradictory. Narration alternates between a present-day anthropologist named June and a magically empowered automaton named Peter, who begins his tale in 1709 Moscow. June’s field of study is mechanical antiquities, which is pretty convenient, since a relic that came into her possession through coincidence is about to drop her in the middle of the hidden civil war between sentient machines. The story is challenging to sink into, with very short chapters jumping back and forth in time and place in a way that is meant to be complementary but comes across as jarring. The novel is further hampered by main characters who are flat and lacking in personality, a homogeneous cast, weak coincidences, and lackluster heroics. (Aug.)