Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Report: Pinion, by Jay Lake

Pinion, by Jay Lake

This is the finale in Lake's steampunk (Gearpunk? Clockpunk? Who can keep subgenres straight anymore?) trilogy. The earlier books were Mainspring and Escapement.

As with the previous books, Pinion presents a fully realized world that is as fascinating in its depth as it is bizarre in its construction. This book is a direct follow on from Escapement, continuing the adventures of Paolina Barthes, Boaz the Brass man, the Mask Childress as well as the clerk/assassin Kitchens, and the librarian Wang whose minor appearances in the earlier book evolve into central positions in this one

Each character has their own goal, the the book follows their progress by interleaving scenes from their point of view. Paolina is still searching for a way to control the power given her by the clockwork "gleam" she created. Her undisciplined use of it has brought England and China to war. Boaz is searching for her, although what he finds along the way would make him his people's savior if only he could be sure they ought to be saved. Childress wants to use her commandeered Chinese submarine and her stolen position among the Avebianco to bring an end to the war, but both sides would rather see her and her crew at the bottom of the sea. Kitchens seeks to discover the fate of the lost expedition to tunnel through the wall, and must find a way to carry out an assignment from his Queen which will cost him his life. Wang wants to bring the Mask to justice, but his own journey makes him wonder if she is the criminal his superiors have made her appear.

That's a lot for one paragraph, and it's a lot for a book. But it is a big, sprawling, complex epic that nonetheless manages an intimate tone as it follows each character's story. As before, the world building is lush and detailed, and I would kill for this man's ability with description that etches everything so indelibly in the reader's mind. Also as before, if I had to pick a weakness here, it would be plot. I thought many of the characters (Wang especially) seem to be along for the ride, acted on by other forces instead of acting on them. As a result, it felt to me as though their overall goals shifted and the eventual climaxes for each story struck me as weaker than they could have been.

Still, it says something that I found "plot issues" a minor quibble. This is a beautiful book.

Ulysses Rating: 3 - I enjoyed this.


Anonymous said...

Always on the lookout for steampunk. Thanks for the review; I'll have to check out the series.

Ulysses said...

It's fascinating. Also, if you haven't checked out Cherie Priest's work (her Clockwork Century novels, eg: Boneshaker), I've read a ton of positive reviews, and it's won a number of awards.

I haven't read it yet, but I'm getting there...