- Series: Novel of the Clockwork Empire (Book 2)
- Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Ace (May 1, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0451464508
- ISBN-13: 978-0451464507
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,683,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mass Market Paperback – May 1, 2012
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The foolishness started at the beginning, where we are started in medias res with one of our heroes captured, separated from the team, in a seemingly impossible situation. The problems in the story are well illustrated by this scene as, to begin with, it was not that interesting, since there are no rules that constrain the abilities of either the heroes or villains. As such there was little tension, as they were obviously going to escape. The lack of rules means that each such scene would simply escalate the power level of the new constructs, while always providing a new gadget to the heroes of sufficient power to allow an escape in the nick of time.
Second, there was never a rational explanation for why the team was taking the risks that lead to being captured. Again and again, the characters would walk into traps, with no thought in advance to escape or contingency plans. I believe this happened fully four times. And on at least one occasion the hero's brought a irreplaceable item with them on a dangerous mission, even though it could easily have been split up into multiple parts to reduce the risk of a catastrophic loss. Instead, what should have been their most important possession was lost.
Third, the delays felt artificial. The book is supposed to be about the travel from London to China, and there are all sorts of problems. But many of them are based on money, fuel or disguise. The team includes two super-geniuses who can invent impossible machines, and do, at a whim, yet the can't invent something as useful as a high thrust engine? Or heck, a high speed motor and propeller? This is a world with battlemechs!
Finally, the characters do not change. Oh, except for the one that dies. He was written so one-dimensionally and unsympathetically, that it was no surprise when he died, except that his characterization in the previous book was so inconsistent with this one, I kept waiting for an explanation. I didn't get one. As for the two protagonists, there was no growth that I could see. And the villains, well the villains made no sense at all. In particular, the man antagonist is given a motivation which boils down to, "I have to keep to my sense of duty or my dad will be mad at me." So even though, time and time again, people point out how stupid it is to be chasing these people given that they are on a mission that will not only save lives, but actually help the nation she is supposed to be defending, she won't consider it. Even worse, the author continues to foreshadow that eventually she'll change positions anyway, making it maddening to have to sit there and read her tortured rationalizations.
When I think back to how much story there was in the first book, and how little there was in this one, I'm amazed it was the same writer. This is one of the biggest drop-offs between a first and second book in a series that I can recall, large enough that I decided to give the books away and not give #3 a chance. I just don't see how the series could recover.