Clockwork

  • by Philip Pullman
  • Narrated by Anton Lesser
  • 1 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A tormented apprentice clock-maker - and a deadly knight in armour. A mechanical prince - and the sinister Dr Kalmenius, who some say is the devil... Wind up these characters, fit them into a story on a cold winter's evening and suddenly life and the story begin to merge - almost like clockwork...

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The Brothers Grimm Would Have Approved

A young apprentice clockmaker is morose and desperate as he sits in Glockenheim's White Horse tavern on the last day of his apprenticeship; he has not been able to deliver a clock figure as all apprentices over the ages have done before him and his reputation is about to be ruined and he shares his despair with the town's storyteller, young Fritz. Fritz assures him that his difficulties are nothing compared to the hardships of creating stories, as he is expected to tell the townfolk gathered there his latest story in a few minutes, and though he has a new tale to tell them, he hasn't managed to write an ending for it in the night, but must somehow invent it as he goes along. And so begins a fantastic dark tale featuring a prince and princess and a dark forest and a suspicious ghastly death which features a mysterious character... who very suddenly appears in the tavern as Fritz introduces him in his storytelling and offers the apprentice a Faustian pact which promises to solve all his problems and bring him great fame and wealth, but will also put the lives of two innocent children in mortal danger. A wonderful tale in the tradition of the best Germanic storytellers of old such as E.T.A. Hoffmann and the Brothers Grimm, this is a tightly paced novella. Wonderfully narrated by Anton Lesser.
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- Ilana

A modern clockwork fairy tale

I downloaded this from Audible this morning and listened to it while shoveling snow, wishing I had a clockwork automaton to do that for me.

Philip Pullman's Clockwork is a fairy tale set in Germany in (presumably) the 19th century, in a world where clockwork devices can be made so intricately precise that they can, if constructed by a particularly ingenious clockmaker, pass for little boys. There are elements of Pinocchio, Faust, and any number of Hans Christian Andersen fables in this story that actually weaves three stories together.

There is Franz, the storyteller who entertains the townspeople with fabulous and hair-raising stories, until he ends up invoking someone who shows up in the tavern while Franz is telling a tale about him.

Karl, the clockmaker's apprentice, approaching the day of the end of his apprenticeship where his great creation will emerge from the town clock tower, has a big problem: he hasn't actually created anything. So of course he is pulling his hair out and swearing he'd do anything to get out of this mess, and you know where that leads in fairy tales.

Finally, there is the story of the proud and arrogant prince and his pretty, fashionable wife, in need of an heir. When their only son dies stillborn, the prince goes looking for a replacement, and procures a clockwork boy.

Everything wraps up with the bad getting more or less what they deserved, the good living happily ever after. Pullman is a good storyteller, especially when he stays concise and doesn't drag trilogies off the rails in the final book (*cough* The Amber Spyglass *cough*). Clockwork really is just a modern fairy tale, so don't expect any brilliant subversion or some kind of steampunk twist.
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- David

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-05-2013
  • Publisher: Audible Studios