The Automation: The capital-A Automatons of Greco-Roman myth aren’t clockwork. Their design is much more divine. They’re more intricate than robots or androids or anything else mortal humans could invent. Their windup keys are their human Masters. They aren’t mindless; they have infinite storage space. And, because they have more than one form, they’re more versatile and portable than, say, your cell phone—and much more useful too. The only thing these god-forged beings share in common with those lowercase-A automatons is their pre-programmed existence. They have a function—a function their creator put into place—a function that was questionable from the start…
Odys (no, not short for Odysseus, thank you) finds his hermetic lifestyle falling apart after a stranger commits suicide to free his soul-attached Automaton slave. The humanoid Automaton uses Odys’s soul to “reactivate” herself. Odys must learn to accept that the female Automaton is an extension of his body—that they are the same person—and that her creator-god is forging a new purpose for all with Automatons…
The novel calls itself a “Prose Epic,” but is otherwise a purposeful implosion of literary clichés and gimmicks: A Narrator and an Editor (named Gabbler) frame the novel. Gabbler’s pompous commentary (as footnotes) on the nameless Narrator’s story grounds the novel in reality. Gabbler is a stereotypical academic who likes the story only for its so-called “literary” qualities, but otherwise contradicts the Narrator’s claim that the story is true.
THE AUTOMATION is a this-world fantasy that reboots mythical characters and alchemical concepts. Its ideal place would be on the same bookshelf as Wilson’s ALIF THE UNSEEN and Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS—though it wouldn’t mind bookending Homer, Virgil, and Milton, to be specific.
And, yes, “B.L.A. and G.B. Gabbler” are really just a pen name. – Goodreads
The Automation Review
When I first starting reading The Automation, I loved it. The footnotes cracked me up, the writing was filled with enough snark to make grin in appreciation. I absolutely loved it when two of the ‘masters’ got into their insult slinging phases. The Automatons were cool. The characters were odd, but in a good way. Even the stanza breaks were mostly amusing. My interest lasted for about 127 pages, though it started dying out before then.
By turns hilarious and offensive in the beginning, The Automation does a few tricks very well. Unfortunately, it only does the same few tricks repeatedly, and they rapidly start to lose their appeal. The footnotes swiftly began to annoy more than they entertained. The affectation of fudging well-known brand names with symbols pretty much irritated me immediately. So did the chapter titling. Reading something like ‘g00gle’ or ‘Ho^d@” is pretty much something that just instantly reminds you of fifth grade silliness, and not in a good way. Most of the characters never gave me any reason to really like them, except for Odissa. I will say the end did appeal to me. It was just enough of a touch of ridiculousness to make me laugh.
I think the issue is that The Automation is just too long for what it wants to do. It would have been a lot more entertaining at about half the size it currently is. I did like the idea behind the story – that of the Automatons. The concept of them is absolutely fascinating. The soul containers, the ability to morph, even the secret society of masters. The book definitely had potential! It just scattered itself around too much.
I can see how it would appeal to some people. I’m fully willing to admit that I might be most of my problem with this book. I’ve got a very specific sense of humor, and while The Automation skirted around the edges of being funny, it never truly succeeded for me. I would definitely recommend using Goodreads or Amazon‘s preview feature to make sure that the way this book is written really appeals to you before you purchase it.