So, you can probably already tell that this book is going to be a little bizarre. Let me assure you it’s a bit more than a little bizarre.
I’ve had this book on my review requests pile for a long, long time, but, guys the review requests pile isn’t a large looming unsteady jenga-esque tower anymore! It is, dare I say it… manageable!
But anyway, I was given a free copy of this book, and in exchange this is my honest review of it. 😀
The capital-A Automatons of Greco-Roman myth aren’t clockwork. Their design is much more divine. They’re more intricate than robots or androids or anything else mortal humans could invent. Their windup keys are their human Masters. They aren’t mindless; they have infinite storage space. And, because they have more than one form, they’re more versatile and portable than, say, your cell phone—and much more useful too. The only thing these god-forged beings share in common with those lowercase-A automatons is their pre-programmed existence. They have a function—a function their creator put into place—a function that was questionable from the start…
Odys (no, not short for Odysseus, thank you) finds his hermetic lifestyle falling apart after a stranger commits suicide to free his soul-attached Automaton slave. The humanoid Automaton uses Odys’s soul to “reactivate” herself. Odys must learn to accept that the female Automaton is an extension of his body—that they are the same person—and that her creator-god is forging a new purpose for all with Automatons…
Odys felt like Frodo taking on the burden of Bilbo’s ring, though he had no idea why. (But don’t get ahead of yourself, Odys. Who said you’re the hero of this story?)
Alright, so I’ll admit that I was actually putting this book off a little bit, which is part of why it took me so long to get to it, because while I really love mythology (especially Greco-Roman mythology) in general, this book is presented in a rather unique way compared to most modern literature and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be too… I dunno… too weird for me? Too meta? It’s told by a Narrator, who is the author, and then annotated (you can read this as peppered with footnotes that are sometimes informative, sometimes related quotes, and sometimes entirely poking fun at the Narrator) by the Editor. I have no idea who either of these people are aside from these pen names, though I do think they are probably actually two people (if not, the illusion of two people is on fucking point)… but either way, it’s an interestingly classic presentation of a modern day story all the same.
This is (sometimes) the story of Odys, which is not short for Odysseus, whose car won’t start one day, so he walks towards where he wants to go. On that walk, he is followed and subsequently somewhat harassed by a strange man in a top hat with an abnormally large umbrella… who proceeds to give him an old coin… then the umbrella… and then commits suicide right in front of him. Very messily. Good thing he had that umbrella!
Yeah, that’s just the beginning… It seems that this coin was in fact, an Automaton, and when the man gave it to him and offed himself, he transferred that Automaton to Odys. Oh, and the Automaton is more or less fueled by Odys’ soul. Yeah. If they get too far from each other, he’ll die, at least, he will in the beginning, until they sync up with each other. But the Automaton, whose name is Maud, is basically his soul incarnate in a vessel shaped like a voluptuous woman. Automatons are built by Vulcan, as in Hephaestus, as in the Greco-Roman god of blacksmithing (and fire, et cetera)… or the titular blacksmith in ‘The Blacksmith’s Circus’ that is the Circo del Herrero series. He actually exists in this world, and he isn’t the one one who does. At least one or two others make an appearance, or are at least mentioned. Back to Automatons though. Automatons are sort of tightly regulated by a group of Masters and their Automatons, of which there are only nine, who are now watching Odys and Maud very carefully…
Anyways, Automaton shenanigans!
I thought that this was going to be a really tough book to read, because it’s written somewhat like a prose epic (in that it is framed and structured similarly). But it’s actually written using a lot of modern vernacular, pop-culture references (everything from LotR to Full Metal Alchemist), modern language, including many f-bombs (I love you, f-bomb!). It’s a… maybe not a typical Urban Fantasy, but it’s somewhat like American Gods in that it takes place in our world, in our time, but with mythological characters making up parts of the plot. But, despite my trepidation in getting started, I ended up actually liking this one quite a bit. It’s often witty. It made me laugh. It never takes itself too seriously (and the banter between the Narrator and the Editor in the footnotes helps this along quite a lot), and was quite engaging! It also doesn’t help that most books that reference things I like in an unobtrusive way make me smile. I rooted for Odys and Maud and wanted things to work out for them. I really loved Dorian, Fletcher, and Odissa as well. I really enjoyed my time with this book, even when the story got really… really quite bizarre at times. But that’s kind of what’s fun about it. It’s a very unique idea that’s told in a way that makes this one hard to put down.
So, basically I should learn my lesson about just trying new things or things that seem iffy to me, because this was great. In my defense, the last 3 ‘iffy’ things were not great, so… I mean… I was cautiously putting my toes in the pool. I eventually jumped in, but I had to gear myself up for it. >.>; But here I am at the end of this book, very much wanting the next book because I need to know what happens. 😀
Final point, which is kind of neither here nor there in terms of the content of the novel, but in the grand scheme of things, footnotes are not always 100% great in ebooks, so if you find you have problems with them sometimes and would still like to give this story a go, I’d recommend a print version. Footnotes always seem easier for some people to read in print. These weren’t bad for me, because they are linked properly, but all the same, you have to kind of scroll through them if they’re long, and sometimes that’s a little distracting when one is used to turning a page a different way to get to more text. Just a bit of a heads up. I wouldn’t skip the footnotes in this one if you think they’re annoying. They’re often hilarious and quite informative as to the motivations and backgrounds of some characters.
Anyhoo! I give this interesting mythy prosey epic 4/5 stars!
Thanks again to the Narrator and/or Editor for the review copy. 🙂