I love a good “Hero’s Journey” story. Clockwork Lives, by Kevin J. Anderson & Neil Peart, caught my eye from the moment I came through the doors of my local library and approached the New Book bookcases. I noticed the deep red cover, which was embossed with a clockwork design and alchemical symbols, on the New Book bookcases. “Oh, what are you about, my darling.” I didn’t bother to check to see whether the novel was part of a series. Nope. And I’m glad that I didn’t. I thoroughly enjoyed the stories, and now I can go back to the library and find the novel which inspired them and introduced the clockwork world.
The premise behind the journey is simple. Marinda has spent much of her life taking care of her sickly father. He loves stories and inventions, but she is a very pragmatic woman. “…she was content with her quiet, perfect life, setting her ambitions low enough so that she met every single one of them.” After he dies, she goes to the solicitor, assuming that she is going to inherit the home in which she and her father have lived. And she does, sort of. She must first complete a task. In the will her father writes:“At first you will hate me for this. Then you will love me for it.” The solicitor hands Marinda a blank, alchemical book and a golden needle. By pricking a person’s finger and putting a drop of their blood on a page of the book, the person’s true story appears. Before she can again live in her home and inherit her father’s other wealth, Marinda must first fill the book with stories. To start off the book, her father has included a tiny vial of his own blood. Marinda is given five days before the house is to be boarded up for safekeeping. She is also give a small stipend to live on until she completes her task. How hard can filling the book be? “The sooner she filled this book with its life stories, the sooner she could be back to her normal schedule.” She thinks that she might even be able to fill the book with stories before the five days are up. But Marinda soon discovers: “Some lives can be summed up in a sentence or two. Other lives are epics.” So, she is compelled to go off on a journey to find stories, and, of course, in the process she is changed. The book is a mixture of other people’s stories and Marinda’s own adventures.
I felt very contented when I finished reading Clockwork Lives. I once heard a Jungian say that we are biologically encoded for the archetypal hero’s journey. I loved Anderson and Peart’s world building. Even though many of the stories were a bit on the tragic side, they were all enjoyable. Part of me hopes that Marinda will collect even more stories for me to read. As for me, I am going to read Clockwork Angels, so that I can enjoy the clockwork world more.