The Automation (#1 Circo del Herrero series) by G.B. Gabbler
Publisher: SOB Publishing
Publication Date: July 2014
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…
The novel calls itself a “Prose Epic,” but is otherwise a purposeful implosion of literary clichés and gimmicks: A Narrator and an Editor (named Gabbler) frame the novel. Gabbler’s pompous commentary (as footnotes) on the nameless Narrator’s story grounds the novel in reality. Gabbler is a stereotypical academic who likes the story only for its so-called “literary” qualities, but otherwise contradicts the Narrator’s claim that the story is true.
THE AUTOMATION is a this-world fantasy that reboots mythical characters and alchemical concepts. Its ideal place would be on the same bookshelf as Wilson’s ALIF THE UNSEEN and Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS—though it wouldn’t mind bookending Homer, Virgil, and Milton, to be specific.
*I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Automation is not my usual kind of book but since I was in the mood for a challenge, I decided to accept the author’s request. I did break a new record with this book (It took me four days to finish reading it; two of which I spent adjusting to it). My previous record was two days, and needless to say, that was a record I wasn’t eager to break.
The story begins when a stranger shoots himself in front of Odys Odelyn after handing him an umbrella and a penny. It later turns out that the penny is an Automaton, and Odys is its new Master. Odys has no idea what’s going on, but soon finds himself twisted in drama concerning gods, other Automaton masters, his sister, and the very Automaton who is- literally- bound to his soul.
Odys is the kind of person most people would call weird, but he happens to be the most normal person in this book. He has OCD, is a loner, pretends to be married to his sister, and hates it when she is out of his sight.
I must say that The Automation is a rather peculiar book, and it seems like the author did that on purpose… maybe for experiment’s sake? I do like the concept of Automatons that feed off the souls of their masters, and most of the plot is actually interesting (even though most of what happens seems to character driven). I also like the footnotes at the beginning of the book: they are somewhat entertaining, as well as enlightening. The story line is such a type that left me feeling curious enough to move on to each next chapter, no matter how smooth the reading experience.
I do not, however, like the interactions between the Masters and other beings; they mostly seem forced and unreal (and the Masters all come across as generally horrible characters who think they are all that). Some… well, most of the relationships between the characters are nothing short of upsetting, especially the apparent relationship between Odys and his sister, Odissa. Also, as entertaining as the footnotes are, towards the end of the book, they just become a tad irritating.
I gave this book three stars (2.5, actually) on Goodreads, mostly because it isn’t horrible, but it also isn’t fantastic. As a whole, The Automations is not a bad start to what I’m thinking will be an unconventional –maybe also interesting- series. I do find myself wondering about what’s going to happen next, so I hope there’s a site for spoilers…
I would recommend this book to any open minded reader who fancies a challenging read. Read it: you just might enjoy it. 🙂