I had the pleasure of meeting Daniel H. Wilson in Guam over the summer. I had previously read and enjoyed his bestseller, Robopocalypse. For fans of science fiction, I highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t already read it. He kindly sent me a signed review copy of his latest novel, The Clockwork Dynasty, with the inscription “This time the robots are the good guys. Mostly.”
Daniel is an interesting guy. Friendly and soft-spoken, he took time hanging out by the pool with his family to talk to me about books and his latest project. It’s no surprise that a common theme in his books centers around robots. Daniel has a PhD in Robotics and a Master’s Degree in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. He’s in good company as a scientist who is also a science fiction author, following in the footsteps of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.
I’m fascinated by the concept of artificial intelligence and inevitably find myself drawn to books and movies that deal with this topic. The Clockwork Dynasty plot introduces something new in this genre, in that it centers around artificially intelligent beings who are not newly created but rather ancient, existing since before the time of modern man. The writing style was fresh in that it was written in the first person from the viewpoint of two different characters, one a modern-day female (June) and the other an ancient robot (Peter). It switches back and forth between present day and past history. While this sounds confusing, Wilson’s format is consistent, which made it flow seamlessly. Alternating chapters are written between June in the present and Peter in the past.
I was impressed with how Daniel Wilson wrote from different character views, yet in a smooth and believable way. While female authors write from the viewpoint of male characters all the time, it’s still somewhat unusual for male authors to write from the viewpoint of a female character. Furthermore, writing from the viewpoint of a robot must present its own challenges for any human being. Wilson managed to do both with a degree of authenticity that allowed me to ease right into the story without any disconnect.
The story itself was intriguing and full of captivating characters and concepts. June, an anthropologist with a specialization in antique clockwork technology, finds herself thrown into a world of robots fighting amongst themselves for their own survival. Peter, a powerful robot, finds himself still searching for his own identity and sense of purpose. Despite the fact that they’ve lived for hundreds of years or, in some cases, thousands of years, there are still missing pieces (both literally and figuratively) for his race of artificially intelligent beings. Both Peter and June may hold the key to putting some of those pieces into place.
The Clockwork Dynasty left me wanting more of its clockwork world. Fortunately, the story ends with a clear potential for a possible series to continue.