The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis

Just finished reading The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis and what a great story this is.  I really enjoyed it, a strange combination of alternate history, steampunk and conflict – in more ways than one – that packs an emotional punch for most of the journey.

I’m not going to say this was a quick read because it isn’t.  The style of writing and depth of detail coupled with the ideas and name places do mean you have to give this your whole attention.  Or at least I found so.  But that’s not a criticism.  I loved the world displayed on the pages here and I was entranced almost immediately by the plight of the Clakkers.

At the heart of the story is the war between the all powerful Netherlands who, using the Clakkers that they invented approximately 200 years ago, have risen to supremacy and the French and their King in exile who, having barely survived the last conflict, spend their time trying to find a way to thwart any future attacks.

Thanks to an inventor called Huygens the Netherlands possess the know-how to make Clakkers.  Mechanical, thinking and talking machines, much stronger and faster than humans, brought to life through a combination of chemicals and alchemy and controlled by ‘geas’ that make it impossible for them to act on impulse and in actual fact cause them increasing pain if they disobey a direct order.  The Guild who create the Clakkers closely guard their inner workings but unfortunately, every now and again, one of the Clakkers seems to break free of the restraints imposed and turn ‘rogue’.  And this is how the story starts – with a public execution of not only traitors to the Brasswork Throne but a Clakker who has broken free from his obligations.  It’s a great opening.  It keeps you hooked with suspense and immediately demonstrates that whilst these automatons are mechanically made objects – they do have the ability to think independently and are far from the simple machines without feelings that the Guild would have everyone believe.

At the start of the story, a precarious ceasefire has been agreed but it balances on a knife edge and rests on the French obeying the terms and conditions to the letter.  Of course, both sides are infiltrated by spies and double agents.  The Netherlands trying to protect their secrets and the French trying desperately to find out what makes the Clakkers tick before any more attacks come their way.

The story alternates around three main protagonists – Jax, a Clakker whose inner thoughts we become privvy to, Berenice, the spymaster general to King Louis and Father Visser who is in fact an undercover Catholic priest.  Their lives will become inextricably linked especially when Visser sets Jax on a mission which has a dramatic impact on both their lives and could potentially create the spark to start a whole new war.

What I found really impressive with this book is the way the author makes you care about all three of these characters.  I mean Jax is a mechanical and yet I just loved his character and really cared about him.  Similarly Berenice – talk about your creative cursing – she gets put through the wringer for sure but still comes out kicking and fighting.  Visser – well, the least said here the better.  I could barely read what he went through.

This is certainly an incredibly clever, complex and layered book and I’m sure that everyone who reads it will take away their own interpretation which is something that I really admire.  I will mention that the author doesn’t shy away from the more violent aspects of the story.  He simply tells it the way it is warts and all – and there are a few stomach turning scenes where blood and guts take a messy centre stage.  But, it’s not gratuitous simply realistic and a fairly honest look at the damage that a strong automaton could wreak on what are, comparatively speaking, fragile humans.  Is that an argument for imposing geas on the Clakkers – some seem to think so and yet the majority of the violence caused during the story is as a result of human interference.

Very thought provoking.  A gripping and enjoyable read with an ending that left me wanting to know when the next book comes out!

I received a copy of this from the publishers courtesy of Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

33 Responses to “The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis”

  1. brideofthebookgod

    Oh this sounds very interesting, I shall have to look out for it (once I allow myself to buy books again!)

    • lynnsbooks

      It’s very good. Not read this author before and I think it’s great that he made me care for a mechanical!
      Lynn 😀

  2. Tammy

    Super excited to read this, yours is the first review I’ve read, so I’m very happy that you loved it!

    • lynnsbooks

      I thought it was great. I confess that I went into thinking that I might not like it but then I was hooked – and to make you have the feels for a mechanical – that’s good going.
      Lynn 😀

  3. jessicabookworm

    I am please to hear you’ve discovered another gem here. Okay the gore might not be for me but this does sound very good.

    • lynnsbooks

      I really liked this – i mean, I certainly wouldn’t want to put anybody off about the gory elements – they’re probably not as bad as I’ve made out – I just wanted to put it out there that there is a bit of violence.
      Lynn 😀

  4. thebookishuniverse

    It sounds extremely interesting and I’d love to read it. I’m glad that you discovered a little gem;)
    Loved your review x

    • lynnsbooks

      It was a little gem – and I was pleasantly surprised because I sort of looked at the cover and thought ‘mmm, not so sure’ so it just goes to prove you shouldn’t judge I suppose – although I pretty much do still look at the cover!
      Lynn 😀

      • thebookishuniverse

        Yes, I’m so happy when I love a book when I dislike the cover. Because, it’s a reminder that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

      • lynnsbooks

        I mean, the cover’s okay – just it’s not the sort of cover that would make me race to pick the book up is all.
        Lynn 😀

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Ah, you read this one right quick! I agree, the first 30-50 pages or so were perhaps the slowest for me, just getting used to the style and the history. But after that, it was smooth going and I ended up loving it. My review will be up Monday! 😀

    • lynnsbooks

      It didn’t feel like a quick read, I felt like I had to really concentrate to get to grips, but it didn’t detract from the enjoyment once I had the whys and wherefores of what was actually going on I was totally intrigued.
      Lynn 😀

      • Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

        By the way, Chapter Nine. Crazy, right?!

      • lynnsbooks

        OMG – was chapter 9 with the mechanical from the wall – and all the treachery! And Louis!!???

      • Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

        Yes! My eyes were bugging out at that point. And I couldn’t believe that about Louis. I really liked him…

      • lynnsbooks

        I know – and what a way to go!

  6. Nathan

    I have seen nothing but praise for this one. Well, for this author really.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I’ve not read this author before but I enjoyed this and will definitely continue with the series.
      Lynn 😀

  7. jenclair

    🙂 This one sounds good!

    • lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed it – it kind of puts me in mind of stories like Agatha and the Airship City because of all the steampunk/gadgety elements with a big dash of espionage and intrigue.
      Lynn 😀

  8. DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

    I first read the synopsis for this last month, and got fairly excited about it. ‘Robot uprising’ stories are good, but it seems like this one has a lot more to offer than just that.

    • lynnsbooks

      It’s really good. I definitely recommend. Very thought provoking, it has humour and cursing all mixed up with spies, fighting, dirigibles and plots and schemes.
      Lynn 😀

      • DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

        That is what I like to hear! I had forgotten it was part of a series too. Makes it all the more appealing to me.

      • lynnsbooks

        I hadn’t realised it was part of a series when I picked it up to be honest but it clearly is just because of the ending.
        Lynn 😀

  9. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    This actually sounds really good!

    • lynnsbooks

      I thought it was excellent – steampunk, sass, political intrigue, conflict, spies, mechanical Clakkers fighting for free will, espionage and double crossings! All good.
      Lynn 😀

  10. romeorites

    I have a Tregillis book but I cant remember which one … *Runs off to the shelves* …

    Ok. Im back. I though I had a Tregillis book, but it would either appear that I do not or my shelves have eaten it.
    This ere book looks a bit cosmic Lynn.

    • lynnsbooks

      It’s really good. It has a really intelligent storyline – which I’m sure most of which went over my head, the three story tellers are great, the author is a bit brutal, there’s plenty of cussing and fighting, decent plot pace and steampunk elements. So, yeah, cosmic!
      Lynn 😀

  11. In review: 2015 so far… |

    […] The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis – excellent and gripping story […]

  12. Don’t quote me, but, I love quotes!!… | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] you fools any more chivalrous I’d surely swoon on the spot and damage my uterus.’ The Mechanical by Ian […]

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