Thursday, March 15, 2012

A wandering spirit finds a new kind of vessel to inhabit

Poor Edwin could never have imagined the consequences building himself a clockwork friend would bring when he created one in Cherie Priest's first Clockwork Century story 'Tanglefoot.'  Edwin is an orphan in the year 1880, who lives in the basement of an asylum with the brilliant but addled Doctor Smeeks.  His parents died a year ago, and while the doctor may not always remember who he is, living in the laboratory is much better than living upstairs with the other children.

One of the biggest perks of living in the basement is that he can use the pieces of machinery that Dr. Smeeks doesn't need for his own attempts at invention.  After a few childish yet successful creations, he's finally completing his most ambitious project yet.  Named Ted for his younger brother who died in infancy, he's created a mechanical friend.  When wound, his jaw moves a bit and he walks forward with a stiff, soldier-like gait.

As time goes on though, Ted seems to be...advancing.  He moves when Edwin is certain that he turned him off.  His jaw moves as if to answer the questions asked of him.  He learns to turn around obstacles instead of walking into them until he topples.

The residents of the asylum don't trust him, either.  After initial delight at Edwin creating a automaton, Dr. Smeeks threatens to dismantle Ted if he gets near him again.  Edwin and Ted also come across a patient named Madeline.  She takes a close look at Ted, and before the orderlies can haul her back to her room warns Edwin that Ted has no soul of his own, and that Edwin needs to dismantle him before someone else takes up residence.

Everyone has read stories about malevolent spirits.  Oftentimes, these spirits will take over a body, evicting the rightful owner.  In the burgeoning world of Steampunk, these spirits are being introduced to a while new type of vessel.  While many authors eschew the fantastic, perhaps there will be other forays combining the mystical with the scientific.  'Tanglefoot' is a nice first taste of the genre, and is available for free on the Subterranean Press website.

Highs:  Edwin's a very likable boy who is easy to emphasize with

Lows:  Not the most realistic 19th century insane asylum

Verdict:  A nice foray into the genre, and a great beginning to the Clockwork Century universe

Further Reading:  BoneshakerSoulless

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