An epic, ingenious new thriller from the New York Times best-selling author of Robopocalypse, The Clockwork Dynasty weaves a riveting path through history and a race of humanlike machines that have been hiding among us for untold centuries.
In the rugged landscape of Eastern Oregon, a young scientist named June uncovers an exquisite artifact - a 300-year-old mechanical doll whose existence seems to validate her obsession with a harrowing story she was told by her grandfather many years earlier. The mechanical doll, June believes, is proof of a living race of automatons that walk undetected among us to this day. Ingeniously hidden inside the ancient doll is a lost message addressed to the court of Peter the Great, czar of Russia.
Russia, 1725: Peter and Elena, two humanlike mechanical beings, are brought to life under the watchful guise of Peter the Great. Their struggle to serve in the court of the czar while blending in and to survive amid those who fear and wish to annihilate them will take Peter and Elena across Russia, Europe, and, ultimately, the centuries, to the modern day.
The Clockwork Dynasty is Daniel H. Wilson's masterful new novel. It seamlessly interweaves past and present, exploring a race of beings that live by different principles from humans but ultimately value loyalty. As June learns more about these beings, she is quickly drawn into a fierce battle that has spanned the centuries and will ultimately determine the survival or extermination of this ancient race. Richly drawn and heart pounding, Wilson's novel expertly draws on his robotics and science background, combining exquisite characters with breathtaking technology - and unmatched action. The Clockwork Dynasty is a riveting breakout novel.
"Action-packed and uniquely imagined with robots - and history! - like you've never seen before, The Clockwork Dynasty is a thrilling ride from start to finish." (John Joseph Adams, series editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy)
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Not as good as Daniel H. Wilson's other works
This book was not nearly as good as Daniel Wilson's other books. I completely enjoyed his Robopocalypse and Robogenesis...because...well...they were about robots. This book does not include characters that conform to any general notion of what robots are or are supposed to be. Yes...these main characters are artificial beings...but they act like humans, think like humans, love like humans and...die...like humans.The main character is kind of flat. (sorry) She has no depth to draw a listener in so you start to care about her. And...the other main characters are equally lacking depth. This doesn't necessarily destroy a novel...but there are no dynamic events, dialog, action or intrigue that make up for this deficiency. I hate to be so harsh. But, the author set the bar pretty high with his earlier novels (though I haven't read/listened to Amped)
Now that I've burned a Audible credit on this novel...I'll be listening to Paradise (Expeditionary Force Book 3). This series has plenty of great characters, plenty of mystery and great plot devices.
Each of the narrators did an o.k. job reading and providing accents and voices. I think they must have been directed to voice act in the way they did...to match the characters' first person monologues. It was terribly hard to listen to in the car...because they'd go from whispering to shouting all too frequently. Half the time I was straining to hear what was being said...and the other half I was driven to reach for the volume to save my ears from ringing. It would seem that these volume fluctuations could have been digitally smoothed out.
I wasn't inspired by this book. It didn't really go anywhere...or accomplish anything noteworthy. The climax was anti-climatic...and largely a disappointment. I hope there isn't a sequel for this novel. It just has no where to go.
Overall...this was a disappointing novel to listen to. I was hoping for science fiction and got a bit of alternative history and fantasy...with a few insertions of the word clockwork added to make the reader recall that despite all other appearances...this is a novel about artificial beings. But...calling something clockwork doesn't in itself actually invoke the necessary imagery when there is no other supporting tapestry to support such an idea. I'll definitely wait quite a bit longer before running out to buy/read any of Daniel Wilson's future novels. He has plenty of talent...but it didn't show up in this particular work. (Man...I hate to be so hard on the guy...but I really didn't like this novel. Sorry)
- C. Andrew Hessler
A Tale of Two Narrators
Before I start getting into my thoughts, I need to make 2 things clear. First, I am incredibly critical when it comes to the narrators of audio novels. I return over half the novels I get from Audible because I don't like the narrators enough to actually listen to them.
Secondly, I listened to this book because of the narrators. I actually had no interest in this book at all, but I enjoyed both David Giuntoli and Claire Coffee in "Grimm", which I watched--until it became utterly unwatchable. Even though I gave up on that show, I always said I'd follow the cast and this was apparently my first stop.
So, because of that, I was incredibly excited to give this one a listen. I actually purchased some extra audible credits so that I wouldn't have to wait until the end of the month to download it. My hopes were high as I push play and the story began....
...and then I worried that I had made a horrible mistake.
I really don't want to write what I'm about to write, but what is the purpose of a review if not to share how you felt about something? Claire Coffee is the first narrator and the first thing that I noticed is that her voice is much higher and reedier than I realized. I don't know if she modulates in her acting roles or if I just never noticed it when I was actually watching her, but her voice is not the type that I prefer to listen to. Still, I wanted very much to like this so I told myself that I could get over the timbre issues and continued. Then I noticed that she seemed to never have enough breath to finish her sentences. I think we've all had those times when we are just trying to squeeze out the last bit of breath in our lungs to get out that last thought, but she seemed to be doing this for nearly every sentence. That is indicative of breath control, and something I find horribly irritating (in part because it induces flash backs of my college voice instructor yelling, "SUPPORT!" and jabbing her fingers into my side). Honestly, I was shocked that Coffee was having this issue, as it is something that actors master early in their training. Things were not going well.
Still, I continued to listen and I was, frankly, floored by her one-note performance. There was barely any animation to her voice and her character, June, came across as lifeless. In one of the early action scenes, Coffee did liven things up a bit, but in a way that really didn't make any sense. She was more animated in the description passages, but the actual dialogue was almost lifeless. I wasn't even sure how I was supposed to feel during this section. Then, there were the accents. Or what should have been accents. I'm not exactly what she was trying to do, but the result was not any accent that I recognized, which was that thing that just made every.single.thing.worse. for me. Honestly, if a narrator can't do an accent, they just should even try.
In short, I felt that Coffee was just reading a book..and let's just keep that sentiment in mind for a moment.
Coffee and Giuntoli alternate chapters, with Coffee reading the present day sections told from June's point of view and Giuntoli reading the sections set in the past told from Peter's point of view. Once I got about 30 seconds into his first chapter, I was all, "What strange magic is this?" Look, I've always known Giuntoli was a capable actor (probably more than capable, but "Grimm" really didn't give the actors much to work with), but I never would have pegged him as someone up to the task of giving the performance I found in this audiobook. It wasn't that he was animated (although he was), but that he drew me into the story. His pacing was spot on, he imbued his passages with great humanity (keep in mind, he was reading the part of what is essentially a robot. A robot with a soul, but still.), he brought to life not only Peter, but any character he read, he hit all the accents nearly spot on, and I could not stop listening.
When it came down to it, he wasn't reading a book, as Coffee was, but telling me a story..and I didn't want it to end. Within his first chapter, I put him on that list of narrators who I would listen to for any book. That list, by the way, now has a whopping two names on it (and that other name happens to have 2 Oscars, 2 BAFTAs, 2 Golden Globes, and an Emmy--among many other awards). Of course, just my luck that this is the only book he's narrated...so far (yes I checked...and keep checking...)
I wish that Audible gave me the opportunity to rate the narrators separately, so that I could Giuntoli the 5 stars he deserves and Coffee probably a star more than she deserves, but that's not a possibility. Thus, I settled on 3 stars for the performance, a fair average of the two.
I had a problem. I desperately wanted to finish this book because of Giuntoli's narration, but I couldn't bear to suffer through any more of Coffee's narration. There was only one way to remedy this--I ended up downloading the Kindle version of the book and synced the two. I would read June's chapters and listen to Peter's chapter and that worked surprisingly well. As an aside, though, I should point out that when you do this, you can listen to the book through either the Audible app or the Kindle app. I tried both and found the Kindle app to be buggy for listening. If you try this, just stick to the Audible app. As long as you have WiFi, or have your apps set to use cellular data, the two will still sync.
The experience of this book, for me, was mostly about the narration, but I do want to address the story itself. I was lukewarm on it, but I am chalking that up to preference instead of quality. Steampunk is an acquired taste and is not for everyone. I know the basics of Steampunk and have read one other book in the genre, a middle grade novel, but this one was just a bit too much for me. From other reviews, it looks like those who enjoy steampunk are loving this book. But, if you aren't too familiar with the genre, I wouldn't call this a gateway novel and you might want to start with another title.
When it comes to recommending this book, if you like Steampunk, you'll probably love this. If you want a truly exceptional listening experience, get the audio book and listen to David Giuntoli's chapters. If you aren't really in to either of those, I'd skip this one.