cover image The Clockwork Man

The Clockwork Man

William Jablonsky, Medallion, $14.95 paper (298p) ISBN 978-1-60542-099-8

The eponymous narrator, a diffident automaton named Ernst, tells of his early life in 1880s Germany serving his inventor, Karl Gruber, in this perplexing steampunk tale. Ernst falls into a delicate, private romance with Gruber's daughter, Giselle, while stoically enduring the torments and prejudice of Gruber's son and mother. Giselle's murder breaks up the family and sends Ernst into a long hibernation from which he wakes in the present day. Jablonsky conveys the mood of a true period piece more effectively than many of his steampunk siblings, but that classic viewpoint comes at a price: Ernst is a veritable Uncle Tom of robots, content to stay with a near-abusive owner and scrupulously hesitant about disobeying even the most blatantly unjust application of the law. Victorians would be charmed, but modern readers will want to get poor Ernst some assertiveness training. (Sept.)