I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
G.B. Gabbler’s The Automation is a hard book to categorize. It’s a little experimental, a little goofy, and a little science-fiction-y, while also hosting a bit of Greek myth and hard boiled detective novel-style narration. And on the whole, I think it does a fair job of combining this hefty grouping of categorizations well.
It was suggested to me due to my enjoyment of House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. And while the use of footnotes and the rather odd conversational tone between the narrator and the editor definitely give it an experimental vibe, I’m not sure I could put these two on the shelf next to each other. That’s not a statement against The Automation, but rather a statement about how different these two books are.
And while I did enjoy the concept of the editor and narrator working together (or more often than not, against each other) throughout the text, I feel as though it was more of a detraction from the greater story than something which adds to it.
Yet, by the end of the book, there is a reveal regarding the two of these which leads me to believe this interaction may play a greater role in future books in the Circo del Herrero series. So, I’ll hold off on being completely against the concept, considering that knowledge.
But the meat of the story really revolves around Odys Odelyn and his introduction into this odd world of Automatons which serve as a separate body for a person’s soul. To give an incredibly brief summation, Odys, one day, is given a penny by some odd dude who kills himself shortly after. The penny ends up being Maud, a creation by the god Vulcan, who, upon being touched by Odys, is inextricably linked to Odys for life. This connection brings about tons of benefits, mostly health and length of life. But it also brings about a ton of negatives, mostly a rather Highlander-esque situation involving a secret society and a guy who wants to collect all the Automatons for reasons I’m not entirely clear on, but mostly involve power.
So, Odys gets into this world and is led around by a series of odd individuals who all have their own Automatons which are basically another version of themselves. So, these other versions take on a lot of the attributes of the person they are linked to, but are still separate in a lot of ways.
And as I’m sure you’re aware by this point, the entire concept is incredibly dense and filled with necessary exposition to explain everything in a way which makes sense to the reader.
Which is where my main issue with this book takes place. It doesn’t really feel like much happens throughout this incredibly long book.
That’s not to say things don’t happen. People are kidnapped, deaths are faked, buildings burned down, and there are more than enough M. Night Shyamalan-style twists to keep you turning the pages, but between those moments are extensive series of explanations regarding this world Odys found himself in, which cause the moments of activity to feel a side note to the world building.
So, as you can probably already tell, I have a difficult time reviewing this book. It’s certainly interesting. There are some incredibly fun concepts being brought forth and a whole world of intrigue that I feel is worth exploring. But the result of this complexity is intense expositional moments which cause the book to read quite slowly.
In the end, I have the feeling that future books in this series could have the possibility of being much more action-packed, now that the heavy lifting of exposition should be out of the way, but I also have my concerns that without a solid editor, there could still be issues with pacing.
If you like being introduced to new worlds and fun characters, this is definitely a book for you. If you are one who expects more momentum in a story, this one may leave you wanting.
But then again, everyone reads things differently. And it’s definitely a fun book, even if it’s a little slow.