Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ticker, by Lisa Mantchev

This week I'm looking at another steampunk novel, this one titled Ticker. Although, like last week's review this is really more of a novella and is fairly short, which allowed me to finish it in very little time. Ticker follows the adventures of Penelope Farthing, the first of the Augmented. The Augmented are people who have received a clockwork implant replacing a broken or defective body part. In her case, Penelope has received a clockwork heart which is required to keep her alive. Unfortunately Penelope's heart is only a prototype as Dr. Warwick, the surgeon who developed and implanted her heart, killed numerous people in experiments to prove the heart would work and is currently on trial for murder. Despite her parents' best efforts, Penelope seems unlikely to receive a replacement. In addition, an increasingly violent protest movement against any and all Augmentation has made research and development of Augmentation increasingly difficult.

The story begins with Penelope racing to meet her family at the city courthouse on the day of Warwick's sentencing. This turns out to be anything but a sedate day when Penelope arrives at her family's factory to pick up her brother Nic, and the factory promptly explodes. Fearing the worst, Penelope and Nic rush home to discover their house has been ransacked and their parents kidnapped. A strange ransom demand sends the Farthing siblings and their friends on a mad dash across the city, hoping to save what family Penelope and Nic have left.

Overall, this book was kind of interesting, even if I found myself rushing through it. I will say that opposed to a variety of steampunk literature which is set in alternate Victorian or Edwardian pasts, this book is definitely set in its own universe. I could hardly see Victorians dying their hair blue, much less having visible tattoos and facial piercings. The book definitely takes at least a little bit of its aesthetic from modern steampunks rather than history. However, I think that's quite all right and it still manages to keep the steampunk aesthetic, although giving the book a bit more of a modern feel.

As I said, I found myself rushing through the book, and I think part of that is because of how relatively short the book is. I felt like there were a lot of plot threads which could have gone off in a variety of interesting directions, and there were some ideas or pieces of characters' personalities which I felt could have used more development. Instead we kind of stick with one or two main plot threads and the characters almost don't have time to sit still during most of it. There might be little breaks here and there, but before you know it they're rushing off to the next thing.

I will say that Mantchev appears to have done considerable research into this book with numerous types of foods and clothing described in almost excessive detail. Quite a few of which I had to look up on my kindle's dictionary. Plus there are a handful of clever references, such as in the name of a steamboat, so that shows Mantchev has put a lot of work in gathering the research material for her book. I just kind of wish that it could have been developed further than the relative brevity of the novel.

Ultimately I feel it comes down to whether the plot as it's described interests you or not. If the idea of a steampunk mystery chase with intrigue and betrayal appeals to you, I think you'll probably find yourself enjoying this book. If none of those things interest you, then you're better off avoiding it. Really just depends on what you like.

- Kalpar

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