The Automation by B.L.A. & G.B. Gabbler
While the ideas in this book are compelling, it unfortunately seems to be a lot of wasted potential. If the author had focused the story more, this might have been a better read, but I think I still wouldn’t like the author’s style.
Publisher’s Description: The capital-A Automatons of Greco-Roman myth aren’t clockwork. Their design is much more divine. They’re more intricate than robots or androids or anything else mortal humans could invent. Their windup keys are their human Masters. They aren’t mindless; they have infinite storage space. And, because they have more than one form, they’re more versatile and portable than, say, your cell phone—and much more useful too. The only thing these god-forged beings share in common with those lowercase-A automatons is their pre-programmed existence. They have a function—a function their creator put into place—a function that was questionable from the start…
Odys (no, not short for Odysseus, thank you) finds his hermetic lifestyle falling apart after a stranger commits suicide to free his soul-attached Automaton slave. The humanoid Automaton uses Odys’s soul to “reactivate” herself. Odys must learn to accept that the female Automaton is an extension of his body—that they are the same person—and that her creator-god is forging a new purpose for all with Automatons…
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
I couldn’t finish this book. I got to the fifty percent mark and then just randomly flipped forward. When I did stop and read, I didn’t feel like I had missed anything and when more characters were introduced, I didn’t care. So I stopped reading it.
I agree. I liked the opening but then it slowed down because Odys feels like Eeyore and the pace is slow. I didn’t care for the “step aside and talk to the reader” as it wasn’t well done. I didn’t like the attempt at epic prose with the colons. Perhaps that was the formatting of my e-reader but that didn’t work for me.
I don’t think you missed much. Several of them point back to why I thought the book was pretentious. There were times that they were just the narrator or editor patting themselves on their back for a good foreshadow or characterization. Maybe you even liked it better without them. What did you think about the other characters?
There were too many characters. I don’t remember them all, who they were or their names. And then some things just happened out of the blue for no reason I can figure. The use of Spanish by a few of the characters, for example. No idea why that happened. And when Bob and Cestus were introduced, I was done. So much yelling and bitterness and I had no idea why. I had no reason to care about the characters up to this point and with this added unpleasant character, that killed it for me.
Speaking of characters, even the main character’s motivations didn’t make sense to me. One of the things that doesn’t happen for along time, is that Odys doesn’t synch with Maud. (In the book, the automatons must synch with their masters. When this happens, they can share thoughts and feelings.) I felt that Odys would have synched with Maud instantly. He came off as someone desperately wanting to make a connection to someone and an instant connection? That seemed to be exactly what he would want! So, for me, this was a step backward in his character, because I didn’t understand why he didn’t want that right away.
What got to me was all of the secrets that were being kept from not only Odys and Odissa but from the reader. There were times when it’s only other masters and automatons but they are still talking around the secrets. There was no reason for them to do that.
Further, when you write a book, the idea is to comment on the world, or life, or metaphysics, or what it means to be human. The idea of using Vulcan was interesting but none of what they used was part of his mythology and so it felt like they cheated with that history. If an author uses a Greek or Roman god, then they need to use that history and not just make stuff up.
I thought all of this was going to connect up when they had the discussion of free will. Did humans have free will or is it just the will of the gods? Are there choices? Are there meaningful choices? At one point, two of the characters talk as if the gods want us to think we have freedom but we don’t. We are manipulated by the gods and pick what they want us to pick.
And then that whole idea was dropped just as quickly as it was brought up. It wasn’t fleshed out. It didn’t go anywhere and it wasn’t done well.
I agree. The big part of the Greek tragedies is that when you fight your destiny, things are going to be bad. It’s when you accept Fate, that things get better, even if the fate in store for you is bad. I wondered if this is what they were trying to do with Odys? That all of his confusion is because he won’t accept his fate, i.e. synch with Maud? Again, it didn’t work for his character with me.
Further, when he did finally synch with Maud, the book never deals with him again. They went out of their way not to explain anything to the reader by avoiding anything Odys might have learned!
To make a satisfying story, you have to get to the point where they accept their destiny and then use what they have learned but we didn’t get that. The thing is, I can’t say this is a one. It’s a firm Meh rating. It had a lot of potential there but it wasn’t done well and it left me so disconnected from all of the characters.
So this book started out well. The interaction of the main character with the old man and his unseemly demise had my attention from the first page. Unfortunately, it went downhill from there and I have to admit, I didn’t actually finish the book. I never got invested in the characters and there seemed to be too many of them that didn’t add to the story. At some point, the asides by the author to the reader got very annoying and I started skipping over them. A couple of the characters that were introduced had some anger issues to deal with and they seemed to always scream at each other and others in the story, but I felt that I was being screamed at too and that makes for very unpleasant reading.
I think the premise of the story had a good foundation and there were a few scenes at the beginning that were written well, but this book definitely needs more work before I would be willing to go for a second attempt. I can only give it a 2.
Thing I liked – I liked the ideas. I like using the Greco Roman gods as inspiration. It opens up a lot of potential to introduce other pantheons later. I liked the adult topics and they were probably handled as well as they could be.
I mostly liked the idea of the Automatons. I liked what they could do and the author was consistent with that.
Things I didn’t like – I didn’t like the style of the author. The narrator/editor combination didn’t work for me. They come off as pretentious and condescending and I didn’t appreciate that. I also didn’t like the footnotes. I think those should have been inline notes, probably done in italics to set them off. In the case of the few long ones, either worked into the story or cut completely.
I think the book spends way too much time on the introduction of the twins. I think the first forty percent of the book could have been cut and not much story would be lost. I didn’t think the twins were very well characterized, which was funny as the most time was spent on them. I understood the other characters and had an idea of what they could do, what their talents were. I have no such idea on the twins. Other than being librarians, liking books, and being devoted to each other, the twins didn’t have any skills. They don’t have any technology, it’s a big point of the book, so I don’t know if they know how to use a computer! I think the twins should have reacted faster to what was happening, especially Odys. They did come off as intellectuals but when confronted with the facts of the supernatural, Odys stands there, struck dumb. It could also be that this was the author’s way to introduce us to things but if so, it weakened the twins as characters.
I think the reason that Odys doesn’t synch with Maud until late in the book is to give the reader background information. This is another example of Odys being weakened as a character, though, as his love of books had to have included speculative fiction, which would give him an idea of this. It could be it was meant to show his willpower or maybe his strong sense of self. However, that doesn’t work with what we see happening in the book. Odys wants to be accepted and recognized too much. I think he would have still paused to join the group due to Odissa. If he knew why he was picked from the beginning, it might have been more interesting and done more for his character.
I’m also not sure why the book wasn’t called Automaton, instead of Automation. It makes me wonder if a typo made it all the way through or if the author forgot to explain the title.
Overall, at the end of the book, I wasn’t interested in what happened next. I didn’t care enough to want to revisit this world.
If you like this book…
If you like the idea of automated protectors, you might check out the House Immortal series by Devon Monk. If you like world mythology as modern storytelling inspiration, you might try the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne.