Book Review 2007 #50: Mainspring

After a long anticipation, since this first was mentioned to me months before its release, which itself was a few months ago, I finally picked up and read Jay Lake (’s Mainspring.

Mainspring is a hard book to categorize. However, if I were attempt to do so, I would classify it as “Science Fantasy Alternate History Clockpunk”.
Mainspring is the story of a clockmaker in a clockwork world. Hethor lives in an alternate history where England still rules America…and oh, yes, the Earth and the rest of the solar system exist on a giant orrery. The “Wall” on the Equator not only separates the north and south hemispheres, but also serves as Earth’s connection to its own place in the celestial clockwork.
Starting with a visitation from the Archangel Gabriel, charging him to find the Key Perilous and rewind the Earth, Hethor is launched on a Hero’s Quest that takes him from his New Haven home to the Wall, and beyond.
In some ways, the novel, especially its early portions, reminds me of J Gregory Keyes “Newton’s Cannon novels” with its AH and Science Fantasy blend. Too, some of the strange locales and sense of fantasy to it reminds me of Jeff Vandermeer’s City of Saints and Madmen. It’s certainly an audaciously imagined universe, a literal clockwork world.
I think the pacing could have been better, it feels very uneven in places. This is only Lake’s second novel (and I’ve not read his first), and I suspect perhaps its his unfamiliarity with the long ball, so to speak, that lets him down here. There are certainly wonders here to be had. Too, some of Hethor’s adventures have a feeling of deus ex machina (pun not quite intended) to them. I did keep reading the book, though, in eagerness to know what was going to happen next, and see Hethor through to his destination.
And, really, how can you go wrong with the addition of Zeppelins? I know there will be sequelae and despite the imperfections in this novel, I remind the reader that I am a fan of worldbuilding first and foremost even to this day. The worldbuilding here intrigued me no end, and is the strongest and greatest virtue of Mainspring.
Science Fantasy Alternate History Clockpunk goodness.