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Clockwork Lives


Clockwork Lives

At first you will hate me for this. Then you will love me for it.

In 2012, author Kevin J. Anderson delivered the stunning adventure of Owen Hardy within the pages of CLOCKWORK ANGELS. The novel was based on the story that inspired a concept album of the same name by legendary rock band Rush. Springing from the mind of lyricist/drummer Neil Peart, the world of the Clockwork Angels was one of steampunk, fantasy, limited enjoyment of life, and one young man’s quest to break free of the preconceived notion of who he was meant to be in order to become who he truly could be. It remains one of my favorite books of the past few years, a poignant and endearing tale of love, loss and discovery on the road to maturity.

The wider world of that first novel was colored by interesting side characters and left so much open for further adventure. Now Anderson and Peart have teamed up to take us through the world of the Clockwork Angels once more, with a new protagonist who will search the world and herself in CLOCKWORK LIVES.

"CLOCKWORK LIVES, much like THE CANTERBURY TALES, is a collection of individual experiences threaded together to create a whole cloth. Within the seeming perfection of the Clockwork, Marinda meets and exposes us to the chaotic lives within."

Where Owen Hardy was desperate to see the larger world, to visit the Clockwork Angels, and to leave his small and quiet home, Marinda Peake has no such interest in leaving her home in Lugtown. She is very much at peace with who she is and where she is, and quite content to live her days with her father, Arlen --- an eccentric old man and an inventor who has professed to have once worked for the Watchmaker. Arlen, like all good fathers, wants more for his child. He wants her to grow and to see the world, and not be burdened with a life of disinterested predictability. Marinda, however, prefers things as they are.

Arlen has the last laugh, though, when he passes away and concocts the ultimate plan to drive his daughter out into the world. In his will, he leaves Marinda a blank journal and directs her to seek out adventure in the world, filling the book with the stories of those she meets on her travels. Only when the book is filled will she be permitted to receive her full inheritance. As with most things, the book is not all that it seems, for it is a special book that requires blood: “One drop of blood will spread out on the pages and record that person’s story.” This is not at all the life she wants to be leading, but she is determined to see her father’s wishes completed and sets out from Lugtown.

Marinda collects the stories from those who agree to give a drop of blood, and the characters are delightful and entertaining in most respects, living lives outside the stable clockwork pattern. While she never hates her father, she does learn to love her adventure, just as he predicted she would. As she meets these people from all walks of life, she finds her own story enmeshing with theirs and becomes altered by them. She collects them in her journal, dubbed Clockwork Lives, and over the time she spends on her quest she finds that she misses Lugtown less and less and that a life spent engaged in the world --- with both the good and the bad --- results in a life more worth living.

CLOCKWORK LIVES, much like THE CANTERBURY TALES, is a collection of individual experiences threaded together to create a whole cloth. Within the seeming perfection of the Clockwork, Marinda meets and exposes us to the chaotic lives within. The novel leads with a simple declaration: Some lives can be summed up in a sentence or two. Other lives are epics. Marinda lived a simple sentence-style life, but the love of a father drove her to more, and in doing so she discovered her own unwritten epic as she interviewed others and became caught up in their epic lives. Those stories are laid out here, with “The Bookseller’s Tale” likely being the strongest and most heartbreakingly beautiful of the lot. Yet she also finds that the road to discovery leads to revelations about her father, and also about her carefree mother, who long ago had abandoned the family life in Lugtown.

Beneath the orderly and the simple, you can find the eye-opening beauty and wonder of those who have broken the mold and sought out more. Who sought to be something beyond what others thought they should be. Who sought an epic life. CLOCKWORK LIVES is an exploration and an embracing of that adventure, complete with the twists and turns, the love and heartbreak, and the successes and tragedies that ultimately make life the compelling story that it is. And always made all the more beautiful in the sharing.

Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on September 25, 2015

Clockwork Lives
by Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart

  • Publication Date: September 15, 2015
  • Genres: Adventure, Fiction, Science Fiction
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: ECW Press
  • ISBN-10: 1770412948
  • ISBN-13: 9781770412941