Saturday, May 2, 2015

Clockwork by Philip Pullman

Title: Clockwork
Author: Philip Pullman
Publisher: Scholastic
Rating: WARTY!

Clockwork is a very short-novel - about one hundred pages - and it's the first thing by Pullman that has interested me since I got done with his two trilogies: His Dark Materials, and The Ruby in the Smoke, both of which I loved. Unfortunately, his series seem to be the only things of his that I end-up liking, and this volume was no exception.

It's set in a previous time - a time of the of skilled craftsmen and of creation of clockwork time-pieces. One of these is a man who is on the verge of finishing his apprenticeship and becoming a master, but in order to do this, he was supposed to have created a clockwork figure that would be added to the collection of figures in the town clock. The problem is that he's done no work and has nothing to exhibit. Now on the eve of his disgrace, he's in a bar with his friend, who happens to be a story-teller.

His friend tells the weird tale of the time the Prince went hunting in the mountains one snowy night with his young brother and a certain other gentleman. On page 77 we read the confusing description where "...two nights later..." - that is, two nights after the prince left "...three nights before..." he returns! This made zero sense to me. If he left three nights before, how can he return only two nights later?

But that's a minor problem. What returns is the sled with the prince mechanically driving the exhausted horses - mechanically because it turns out he's dead, and the only thing which kept his whip hand moving was a clockwork mechanism which someone had placed in his chest.

Right at the point where the story teller is revealing that the count never returned on the sled, the count himself comes into the bar, which precipitates everyone else leaving in panic. The only ones to remain were the about-to-be-disgraced clock-maker and the count himself.

Thus begins the tale, and it wasn't disastrous, but it was a bit boring with nothing of great import and certainly nothing engrossing happening. It's a very short novel, which is the only reason I bothered to finish it, but that does nothing to improve the overall quality. I can't recommend this one.