Mainspring (Clockwork Earth, #1)
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Mainspring (Clockwork Earth #1)

3.18 of 5 stars 3.18  ·  rating details  ·  1,596 ratings  ·  230 reviews
Jay Lake’s first trade novel is an astounding work of creation. Lake has envisioned a clockwork solar system, where the planets move in a vast system of gears around the lamp of the Sun. It is a universe where the hand of the Creator is visible to anyone who simply looks up into the sky, and sees the track of the heavens, the wheels of the Moon, and the great Equatorial
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Kindle Edition, 369 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2007)
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Chadwick
Sep 03, 2007 Chadwick added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: hated-it
I bought this novel on the basis of Cory Doctorow's cover blurb, and man do I want to kick his ass. This book is horribly written. Character development is non-existent. Our hero, Hethor goes off on this quest to rewind the mainspring of his clockwork earth at the behest of the archangel Gabriel. Along the way he stops off in a sucession of thinly-imagined fantasy cities that all feel like they were cobbled together for a clockpunk D&D campaign and has sex with a tiny monkey lady. I know, I...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
UPDATE 6/1/2014: My blog about Jay Lake's death.

It's time for the next review in my ‎Jay Wake Pre-Mortem Jay Lake Read-a-thon! And today, Lake does what so few others in my 53 years have done: Used the word "God" and not made me screechingly furiously attack-mode angry. MAINSPRING, reviewed at Shelf Inflicted, is a good book for many reasons. That one is mine. Others include elegant phrasemaking, deft plotting, and a re-imagining of the laws of the Universe that's breathtaking.

I'm very happy I'v...more
Ben Babcock
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ian
I happen to believe in a divine creator. I readily admit, however, that it's not always easy to maintain such a belief, particularly in the light of suffering or injustice. So my faith waivers from time to time. I am forced to reevaluate my beliefs in light of what I see around me and elsewhere in the world. Sometimes I come back to my roots and sometimes I am compelled to alter my faith to conform to reality.

Yet the question of a divine creator’s existence is only one among many, and it’s all t...more
Tom
I'll start it short: This is a terrible book.

The premise is excellent, as is the cover. The execution, however, is amateurish at best and laughable at worst. There were some 4 star moments, though - the journey, to be fair, proceeded as follows:

3 stars, 4 stars, 3, 4, 2, 2, 1...

The second half of this book is so unsatisfying, and the ending so trite and faux-didactic that I had trouble not throwing it across the room. As a massive sf/fantasy literary snob (China Mieville is my hero), I was ac...more
Matt
The author would appear to be something of a fan of Gene Wolfe, and if you are going to pattern yourself after someone that's a pretty good choice. Unfortunately, Wolfe has a singularly unimitatable style and the author is quite unable to match his high ambitions. There are flashes of greatness in the story, but by and large it is peopled with flat uninteresting characters that do uninteresting things.

The principal conceit of the story is that the world of the story is truly the clockwork orrey...more
Ian Tregillis
I love cool ideas. Nothing excites me more than a really gonzo idea story. Jay Lake, a superb short-story writer, is the kind of guy who has a half dozen mind-blowing ideas before breakfast. (Which is one reason why I both admire and hate him. Also, he writes crazy fast, which is another reason for admiring and hating him.) The premise behind Mainspring is one of the coolest things I've encountered in a long time.

I've heard it claimed that Isaac Newton changed the way natural philosophers viewed...more
Ross Lockhart
The core conceit of Mainspring imagines that the solar system is actually a gigantic orrey, and that the movements of the stars, planets, and the earth itself are all controlled through a sort of deistic clockwork, giving physical form to the ages-old watchmaker analogy of creation. When the mainspring of the earth begins to run down, the archangel Gabriel engages young Hethor Jacques, a teenaged clockmaker’s apprentice, to find the “Key Perilous” and rewind creation. As this cunningly-plotted q...more
Brian Kristopher
Warning: Mild Spoilers

First, I liked this book. It's an entertaining read.

That said, I was disappointed with it. I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. That's not to say it's bad, because it's not. It's more a case of it's not anywhere near as good as it could be.

The main problem I had with it is that Hethor, the book's protagonist, never does much of anything. The book sort of happens to him.

In a way, instead of the Victorian Era flavor Lake was going for, he ends up invoking an e...more
Bagtree
Profoundly underwhelming. The characters are undeveloped, the central conceit - though at first intriguing - isn't fully thought through, and does no one else see unfortunate implications in turning the entire Southern hemisphere (with especial attention to Africa) into a land of ~*savages and barbarism and strangeness*~ where no one is human, and they're all either leading pleasantly unsophisticated lives in harmony with the universe or HORRIBLE MONSTERS?

Moreover, there is no ambiguity whatsoev...more
Tracy
I have just finished rereading this book for the first time. On second exposure it is even better than I had remembered. It is both subtle and outrageous. It is a marvelous chance to step out of our own familiar world filled with marvels, into a world strange and steeped in the elements of our own, but rendered in strange hues, as if seen through the distorted lens of a funhouse mirror.
It is more than Hethor's story, it is the story of the Brass Christ, and the mysterious sorcerer (or not) Wi...more
Nikki
I don't know what to think about this. I read about halfway through this, and then by chance read the reviews here on goodreads, and my suspicions were confirmed. I was enjoying it in a way -- the world at least, the ideas -- but I couldn't enjoy the characters because there seemed to be very little to them. I never got an idea of what drove any particular character or why -- I didn't get enough of a sense of any of them to really like them.

Add to that the problems raised in other reviews, and I...more
Ellyddan
While I enjoyed parts of this clockpunk work, overall I can't help but feel a little indifferent after finishing the tale.

The author did some excellent world-building. I really wanted to know more about the various cultures and climes that Hethor, the main character, came into contact with.

On the other hand, the originality of idea could not overcome for me the blandness of the main and side characters. I don't mind books where the main character is somewhat more of an Everyman so that the reade...more
Lane
I really wanted to like this more, but it fell kind of flat to me. I love the literal clockwork universe, but unfortunately the main character was pretty standard and shallow. Just another naive fantasy chosen one. The conflicting ideologies the plot set up never really culminated into anything satisfying, either, and the [spoiler:]furry take on the fantasy hero discovering the joys of true love didn't work for me either.
But I liked the world building. I just didn't get as much of what I really...more
Jim
A genre blending mix of magic and steampunk, Jay Lake takes on the creation of the world myth in a very alternate version of a Victorian Era world. I like the world building, but the main character himself tended to be a bit lackluster for most of the novel, haplessly falling into progressive worse situations. While it does represent a coming of age story, very little of it is a direct result of the main character himself. Rather, he is propelled to increasing challenging circumstance that he hi...more
Mike
So, what if you had a literal clockwork universe in which the earth rotates on an immense brass track driven by gears on top of an equatorial wall?

Jay Lake takes this unlikely premise and makes it work, and what's more, makes it the setting for a journey of spiritual realisation by the extremely hapless main character. (Poor guy, he keeps getting falsely accused, cast out, beaten up, robbed, imprisoned, abducted, whipped, abducted, abandoned to die, starved, dropped off cliffs, beaten up, attack...more
Jaya
Lots of people seemed to think that this book was making an argument for ..ahem... ''intelligent'' design. I didn't see that. I took so many things from this that were exactly the opposite of that. I think it's a story based on Christian tradition... just like I might write a story based on Islamic or Buddhist, or Aztec tradition.

It's a lovely 'what if' story. Some said the characters were bland...well, not everybody in the world is larger than life, and these things don't necessarily happen to...more
Allisyn
I enjoyed reading Mainspring but it had some flaws that detracted from my enjoyment.

Mainspring takes place in an alternate universe with a Clockwork Creator. The religion bears similarity to the Christian tradition but the actual differences are never explained to my satisfaction. Some of that may be due to trying to only reveal what is known to the main character but it leaves the reader's understanding of the world lacking. It was clear that there was some really interesting world-building bei...more
Nathan Hirstein
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Colin McKay Miller
I have a long list of expectations when it comes to science fiction. There’s the good (creative concepts, detailed setting, the epic feel of an alternate universe), the bad (execution falling short of the creativity of the idea, dragging pace, botched social commentary) and the whatever (obscure names, interspecial love interests – oh, why does it never end awkwardly?). For Jay Lake’s Mainspring, he avoids many of the pitfalls of science fiction, but he doesn’t nail many of the positives either....more
Onefinemess
I have to say, the opening chapter put me off. Especially the last page or so, I was like really? Really? Not only do the apprentice’s master’s sons hate him, but one happens to beat him up and steal the last of his father’s money on the way out of town? Ugh. Are we back here again? I get that this is probably a retelling of the classic poor/apprentice/beggar boy rises to the task of being a hero via steampunk BUT don’t overdo it. Please. There are other ways to stack the deck that aren’t so obv...more
Woodge
May 28, 2008 Woodge rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people I don't like
This fantasy has the bizarre and interesting premise of a literal clockwork universe. The Earth’s mainspring is winding down and young apprentice clockmaker Hethor Jacques is charged with finding the Key Perilous and winding it up again by a Brass Angel. The equator of the Earth is a giant gear that meshes with another for Earth’s journey around the Lamp of the Sun. Set in an alternate 19th-century Earth where Her Imperial Majesty Queen Victoria rules over England and Her American Possessions, t...more
Josh
Mainspring begins with the archangel Gabriel appearing to Hethor, the novel's protagonist. It seems that the world will end very soon, and Gabriel sets Hethor on a journey to make things right. Jay Lake may not realize it, but he's rewriting Donnie Darko. (And I'm not just saying that because of the obvious Christ imagery in both stories.

The problem is that Hethor's world is like a clock, the Earth revolves around the sun on a giant brass track, and the Earth's mainspring is winding down. Hethor...more
Ron
Imagine a world in which god is the ultimate clockmaker, the pre-Einsteinian world of Newtonian physics, but taken literally: the solar system really is on a series of gears, the Equator is a brass gear miles high with miraculously-machined teeth meshing with the cog of the world's orbit, and imagine that the Earth is winding down and must be rewound. That is the mission given to Hethor, a clockmaker's apprentice in Victorian New Haven, by the archangel Gabriel.
If you imagine this as a pocket u...more
Nighteye
Jun 17, 2014 Nighteye rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Steampunk readers
Good Steampunk book, intresting feature in here are the religion which a brass christ who dies while rewinding the great gears who propells the world forword. Other strange thins is the sun who is a brasslamp shining and the ectorial wall which is here a gigantic brass wall seperating the south earth and the north earth with the gears that propells the world runns at the topp.

Good story about a boy eho get a call from the angel Gabriel that he must save the world, on his way he meet some strange...more
Julie
Jay Lake wrote one of my favourite short stories in the Steampunk anthology, so I was really expecting better from this book -- but unfortunately, it really didn't do it for me. Hethor is your standard intrepid boy hero with hardly any characterisation, there's no smooth character development, his love interest is preternaturally supportive and understanding and flawless, the ending left me unfulfilled, the writing felt stilted and overly-formal at times, and I had a really hard time just graspi...more
Damian
In my opinion one sign of a good book are the strong reactions it evokes. Judging from the number of 5 star and 1 star ratings, I'd say Mainspring qualifies. As usual, I'll leave it to others to tell you what the story is about. I read waaaay too much fantasy and sci-fi so I'm always delighted when I discover a book thats unlike any other I've read. My only complaint would be the weak character development. Mr Lake tries and there is some back story but I never really found myself caring about o...more
Anne
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sam Reader
Okay, so the rundown is as follows. For all the lavish, bright, interesting points of Mainspring, Jay Lake's novel falls flat for the most part. It's rushed in the good parts and padded everywhere else, the characters don't seem to matter other than as props, and the main character doesn't really show enough growth to make his journey make sense. It's a loud, empty mess that might be a good read if you take it slow and get it out from the library, but I cannot recommend in normal circumstance...more
Dan Lemke
3 1/2 stars.

This was an entertaining book, much better than The Court of the Air, which I read shortly before it. The author keeps the narrative tight and constantly progressing, mixing in metaphor and metaphysics in ways that work for my tastes.

Steampunk as a genre tends to fall into two camps: alternative history Earths (like Boneshaker or The Difference Engine), or fantasy worlds similar to our own (the aforementioned Court and Retribution Falls, for example). Mainspring occupies something of...more
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234088
Died June 1, 2014.

Jay Lake lived in Portland, Oregon, where he worked on multiple writing and editing projects. His 2007 book Mainspring received a starred review in Booklist. His short fiction appeared regularly in literary and genre markets worldwide. Jay won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and was a multiple nominee for the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards.
More about Jay Lake...
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“The fanged shadows boiled out behind them, howling for blood, their voices creaking with the sound of snapping bones. The fallen of Hethor's own party seemed to be swept up in the pursuit, dead correct people on their trail, keening, crying, blaming. Rivers of red flowed rapidly across the stone dock in the twilight, slippery sticky blood overtaking their flight to make them trip and slide headfirst into stone bollards or pitch screaming into the sea.” 4 likes
“We are not dead!"
He could hear the smile, even in her answering yell. "Certainly we are. It is only that our bodies have not yet learned the truth.”
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