A Total Inability To Connect

Mainspring - Jay Lake Writing: 4
Story/Plot: 2
Depth/Detail: 3
Enjoyment: 3

I wanted to really like this book. I wanted to love this book, in fact. I've been following Jay on Facebook for many months now, through his public battle with cancer and his lifestyle. He's a local author as well, is very well thought of, and I picked up this book and it's sequel for a very good price. All seemed to be perfect!

Until about the 50% mark.

Mainspring is about Hethor, a boy who is a clockwork apprentice in 1900ish New England, assuming a steampunk slant on a world where New England was still part of...well, England. He gets visited by an angel - which probably should have been concerning to begin with - and is told to go on a big journey to save the earth by rewinding the clockwork core of the earth and preventing it from unraveling. Kind of a cool concept. He gets swept into a journey of growing up and seeing the world as an innocent naive boy, tries to convince others to help in his quest, and eventually swept all over the world in a giant airship. All of this is fine and dandy, an interesting story with competent writing. Engaging enough, enjoyable enough.

However, as the book continues on, the religious slant goes from an item in the story to THE story. The use of the word "God" becomes 15x a page it felt like, Hethor is constantly praying, thinking about God, defending all his decisions based upon God, etc. There becomes a general theme of representing how God works behind the scenes to run the world and acts in mysterious ways and whatnot, even while presenting a blasphemous hypothetical other God. This unfortunately devolves to what I felt was more than mild preaching, and every single situation is resolved basically by Hethor praying to God and trusting in God and suddenly the bad guys perish! Huzzah!

The ending itself felt a bit rushed, as if there was tons of buildup then suddenly an avalanche of God-related events that came crashing to the finish line. During this time, Hethor meets a race of small monkey-people, human-like but small and covered in hair who speak a weird click-based language that God mysteriously gives Hethor the ability to speak. He falls in love with one of these monkey people and ends up having endless monkey sex with her, and finally falling in love. The two of them venture to the center of the earth together, are confronted by numerous enemies that they'd already faced, and again are saved by God willing it. Who knew?

I truly like Jake and I enjoyed the actual prose of the book. His style is readable and pleasant, however this story starts out fairly well and intriguing, building an interesting alternative steampunk world with an interesting concept of how said world functions. However, it devolves into preaching and loses it's focus, meandering a bit and ending in a fairly unsatisfying way. Lots of potential that just didn't pan out. I still think Jake is an upstanding guy and I'm going to read the second novel in the series to see where things go.