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The Alchemy of Stone Paperback – January 5, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
The story intertwines Mattie's search for independence, the gargoyles' search for freedom from turning into stone, and a civil/class war searching for control of the city. It's part political parable--to resist ossification, the gargoyles must become, literally, vulnerable to wound and decay, just like the city they guard--as well as a questioning/meditation of what it means to be 'free': Freedom from something, or freedom to do something?
One of the things I truly admire about this book is Sedia's refusal to give the fairy tale happy-sappy group-hug ending. If you want all of your stories to end like Star Wars movies, this is not for you. If you like your stories to be readable as literature and as a really good story, much in the way of Philip K. Dick, dark and powerful and yet somehow beautiful, this book will stay in your memory far long after you finish the last page.
The Alchemy of Stone is set in a steampunk city on the brink of a civil war, and divided between past and future, poor and rich, science and magic, represented by the factions of the Mechanics and Alchemists. The protagonist Mattie is an emancipated robot that works as a alchemist, so she is truly divided between these worlds of science and magic.
Although Mattie is emancipated, her creator still insists in holding the key to her heart, and she needs him to literally wind her up like a clock, as well undergo minor repairs, like when she breaks her porcelain face, loses an eye, etc. It reminded me of a destructive relationship that the victimized party can’t seem to escape.
The problem I had with the book is that I had a deep antipathy towards the heroine, who was a bit of a drama queen for my tastes. All the human struggle was lost to me as the omniscient narrator got into looong rambling about what the lady felt or didn’t feel. Things got worse when Mattie got involved with a renegade mechanic. A love that culminates in one of the most bizarre sex scenes I have read, as the romantic interest circled with his tongue her – in this case very literal – keyhole.
The book does bring some very interesting ideas in the world creation front. Several fantasy elements are thrown into the steampunk setting. The city is guarded by living gargoyles that are turning to stone because of a plague, and their monologues bring a sense of decadence, sadness and end of a culture.Read more ›
The story follows Mattie, an intelligent automation in a world that is very steampunkish. Mattie is an alchemist, trying to discover a way to prevent the gargoyles in the city from turning to stone and dying out. They seem to predate the human inhabitants of the city, and are responsible for its construction and character. At the point in the story, the city is overcrowded, and divided. There's a political rivalry between the Alchemists and machinists, which spills over into violence with the Duke of the city and his family is attacked and killed, culminating in civil war between classes. Mattie is at the center of this, as an Alchemist, but her creator, whom she is bound to, is a fairly cruel machinist who will not let her stray too far from needing him.
This was a fun read, but not as good as I'd hoped it would be. It felt like a quick look into a vastly complex and interesting world and I didn't get the depth that I would have liked, and that easily could have been there. That being said, what I got was still a very good, engaging read. Where the story is somewhat lacking, it is made up for with the character of Mattie and the various struggles that she comes across in the story. Where most people would think of a robotic being as fairly robust and durable - watching any sort of movie about robots will tell you this - Mattie is weak, timid, and fragile, both physically and mentally.Read more ›
It starts out with some promise, as the narrative slowly weaves an exposition cleverly blending technical information about the world and its inhabitants with a growing drama between the main characters. From the first chapter, I wanted to get to know the characters better; to find out the secrets behind Loharri's motivations and see what makes Mattie tick.
Unfortunately, the story never quite evolves to that point, settling for some halfhearted political rhetoric halfway through the book, culminating in a seemingly rushed and abrupt ending that tries too hard to pull off a last-minute moment of dramatic significance. I was an art major; I know it when I see it.
It almost telegraphs a thought pattern:
"Here's a colorful and diverse world of alchemy and science, teetering on the edge of conflict, populated by a number of interesting character archetypes. Let's set them in motion and see what happens. Oh wait, I don't actually know what happens. Well, let's introduce some random cardboard characters and dabble in some bland, mildly erotic scenes with all the flavor and appeal of day-old oatmeal. Nope, that didn't work. how about a sudden war, which will see all those formerly complex and fascinating characters reduced to window dressing for the last half of the novel? Sure, why not...but I don't know how to end it! Oh, pizza's here -- uh...THE END. Wait, that's not dramatic enough. THE END -- OR IS IT. Yeah, much better. Mmm, pepperoni.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A beautiful story with love and hope and melancholia. The characters are plausible and real life and the main character is wonderful in its naivety and feelings.Published 1 month ago by Gert-Jan Lind
I was very pleasantly surprised by this book, I normally don't read fantasy but this was well written. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Fred Hopke
The Alchemy of Stone’ is a delight, if dark steampunk allegories appeals, and it did to me. I highly recommend this novel. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Wistful Angst
This is by far one of the better Steam Punk books.
It focuses on Alchemy and Machinery all in the Victorian style and the steam, while minimal, the time period rings... Read more
Wonderful little Sci if Gothic story about love and community and difficult choices. Delightful read full of vivid descriptions and characters you will wish you really knew.Published 17 months ago by KGA
Great book!! Gives me a new way to look at A.I. and machines. Very sad ending though. A must read!Published on June 1, 2014 by TJ
This book is about a female clockwork automaton. She's an alchemist living on her own, but she's still technically beholden to her creator, since he has the key. Read morePublished on April 24, 2014 by Eric Juneau
Neat universe, cool setting but story marred by boring, passive protagonist surrounded by uninteresting characters and a goofy amount of 'right place, right time' moments. Read morePublished on March 24, 2014 by Brent Disbrow