The Clockwork Man by William Jablonsky is the story of Ernst, a fully sentient clockwork driven automaton. The story is told by Ernst through a series of entries in his personal diaries and chronicles his life as he learns what it means to be alive, exercise free well, and about right, wrong, and the shades of grey in between.
The journal Ernst keeps is an exercise in self-reflection, and as a result, much of the story’s exposition is about Ernst’s inner thoughts and experiences. The story takes place in two parts, the first during the late 1880’s in Germany, and the second half in the United States in 2005 after his reawakening. This format effectively breaks the book up into two halves, and thus tells two related but markedly different tales as Ernst learns about the world in which he exists and the people who surround him.
I personally found that I enjoyed the first half of the book better than the second half; despite the odd romance and the contradictory notes on what Ernst is able to “feel” I found myself having to suspend disbelief in the second half of the book more so than in the first. Ernst seems to take his introduction into the modern world a bit too smoothly and seems more puzzled than alarmed or offended by his new world which contain many aspects which would be sure to alarm his Victorian era sense of decorum, and writes it off as an effort not to be judgmental. At the same time, he struggles with concepts of right and wrong, indicating that he has the ability and interest in discerning between the two.
Overall, though, The Clockwork Man is a good, quick read. It’s entertaining as long as you’re willing to suspend disbelief and simply enjoy the tale. Many of the themes in this book are interesting to explore and are likely to leave you pondering in between moments of reading, and that, to me, is part of the elements of a story well told.