Thea Gregory's Reviews > Automatic Woman

Automatic Woman by Nathan Yocum
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Aug 17, 12

bookshelves: alternate-history
Read in August, 2012

I was offered the chance to review Nathan Yocum's Automatic Woman, and as always, when asked for my thoughts I am more than happy to oblige. This was certainly a very unique piece, and I found myself immersed in the Victorian England that never was.

Main character Jolly Fellows is a thief-catcher who is just doing his job. Unfortunately for Jolly, but very fortunately for us, he gets assigned the wrong case at the wrong time. Assigned to find the missing and presumed stolen clockwork Swan Princess, he quickly finds himself mired in a conspiracy and the secret, personal war of two old men.

There's one thing about Jolly Fellows that I absolutely must share. Upon reading his description, my mind decided that he looks like the Baron Harkonnen from the 1983 Dune movie. Yes, I watched it, shut up. Thus, most of the book was envisioned as the Baron Harkonnen kicking ass, taking names and getting hopped up on some seven percent solution and proceeding to smash some faces. While I realize that Fellows is not quite that corpulent, it was pretty funny.

Before my next thought, I shall point out that I am probably not the type who should read alternative history. I found that using actual noteworthy people of the time would jolt me out of the suspension of disbelief (Charles Darwin, Bram Stoker, and Doctor Conan Doyle) and having injected penicillin over fifty years before it was developed in the "prime" universe were a little jarring. The penicillin thing is still crashing my brain, but I'm an admitted history of science junkie. It's pretty minor, and my only real complaint about the book.

As for the overall feel of the book, I loved that it used the robust vocabulary of Victorian England. It was told in the first-person perspective, something I usually find a little off-putting, but the use of language was brilliant and side-stepped most of the issues with first-person perspective. The scenes were so real, and it brought out the charm and character of the era. At times, I couldn't believe the book was published in 2012, such was the extent of the authentic flavor.

In short, the plot keeps you guessing, the book moves quickly and at the end I was wishing for more.
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