Friday 7 December 2012

Review of Automatic Woman by Nathan L. Yocum (And Giveaway)

Automatic Woman
by Nathan L. Yocum

There are no simple cases.
Jacob “Jolly” Fellows knows this.

The London of 1888, the London of steam engines, Victorian intrigue, and horseless carriages is not a safe place nor simple place…but it’s his place. Jolly is a thief catcher, a door-crashing thug for the prestigious Bow Street Firm, assigned to track down a life sized automatic ballerina. But when theft turns to murder and murder turns to conspiracy, can Jolly keep his head above water? Can a thief catcher catch a killer?

Automatic Woman is the second novel from award winning screenwriter Nathan L. Yocum. A volatile mix of steampunk, noir, historical fiction, and two-fisted action, Automatic Woman takes us to a place that never was yet we all know so well… the London of Jules Verne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jack the Ripper and Bram Stoker with a pneumatic twist.

EXCERPT from Chapter One:

I am a jolly fellow. My name is actually Jacob Fellows. The gentlemen in my office refer to me, literally, as Jolly Fellow, which is their euphemism for my rotund figure. There’s a long precedence of fat men also being funny men. I don’t regard myself as a man of mirth or good humor. In truth, I’m more apt to crack skulls than I am to make silly gestures, but the assumption stands and it’s easiest for my mates to pigeon-hole me in what they already hold true.

I’ve often looked for a solution to my roundness. I’m physically active at work and in leisure. I love football and am bloody hell on gears in the goalie box. Nevertheless, my cheeks are round and my jowls hang.

Whenever blokes find out that I’m a thief-catcher by trade, that I’m an operative for the Bow Street Firm, their eyes light up and I am forced to tolerate the inevitable comments.

“Oy, what kind of man are you going to run down?”

Or, “business must be good, my friend!”

Or my personal favorite, “your wife must be a jolly good cook, mate.” I’m not married, never had much luck with the female folk, and any reminder of this is liable to put me in an ugly disposition. An ugly mood means ugly deeds and I’ve hurt fellows over the odd comment. I’m not proud of that, just stating the truth.

So I’m going to start off by saying I probably wouldn’t have chosen this book to be my next read. I would have gotten to it next on my list it wasn’t very high up there. The story follows Jacob “Jolly” Fellows a P.I. strong arm for a Victorian Lord who knows everything about everyone. When Jolly is sent out to investigate a stolen automaton, the ball starts rolling on a conspiracy for all times.

When I first opened the book it read, to me, like a crime noir novel set in the 1800s which really appealed to me; I love both – they’re awesome. And the steampunk aspect where a lot of the plot looked to be settled around these automatons that move and react like real people was really cool. But there were just some things that really bugged me and I promised myself I wouldn’t rant so I will try my best not to.
Firstly this book is described as a steampunk, noir, historical fiction. Noir goes right in the ‘checked box’ that was really well presented but the steampunk? I feel like we lost it fairly early on, getting caught up with the action. Mentioning the automatic girl once or twice just so we don’t forget that’s why we started this journey doesn’t count as steampunk in my book.
Secondly the historical part of ‘historical fiction’ just made me twitch. It didn’t ruin the story for me but it made the corner of my eye twitch. The setting was good; the culture and social scene was accurate. It was the characters themselves. There are a number of famous historical figures woven into the plot of this book that definitely would have been in London at that time and could totally have been friends but they were locked in this huge conspiracy that revealed itself fairly early. I just find it so dangerous and often unnecessary to include historical figures into the book when you could just as easily make your own character that emulates that historical figure or follows their belief system. It was just so pointless because when I see that famous name I’m walking into it with a prejudice about what I as a reader think this historical figure was like and of course it’s going to be different from how he acts on the page because every writer will describe them in a different light and for a different purpose. But if you create a new character, one who holds a similar stance to that historical figure, I’m coming at it with fresh eyes, seeing what the writer wants me to see. So needless to say, I did not like the historical figures in the historical fiction.
That’s not to say I didn’t like it. The unresolved rivalry between Jacob and the man named Silver was humorously tragic and the romance between Mary and Jacob was so easy and comfortable and yet so strained that I was constantly waiting to see what they would do next and they never disappointed – yes this is coming back to the old characters vs. the new character.
Then of course there was the automatic woman – the Swan Princess – who causes all kinds of chaos and then drops off the pages while we focus on drunken fist fights and lectures on the origin of species only to resurface near the end suddenly fixed and ready to go. I’ll admit there were several instances where I completely forgot why this whole journey that Jolly takes even started but then I’d come back and wonder about my automatic woman.
The part, for me, that was consistent throughout the entire novel was the noir aspect, the style of speaking and presenting the situation. Noir is one of my favourite styles (of writing, of movie and music…and hair) and I was really excited to let that gritty feeling just sink into my bones while I read it.
I’m recommending this book for those readers who are interested in a crime noir in a different setting and if you can forget all the negative, rant-y things I said about it and read it with fresh eyes – every book should be read with fresh eyes and without bias; it just makes this so much easier – then peruse it for a spell.
It came out in August of this year so you can buy it here:

E-Book – $2.99
Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES
Barnes & Noble

In Print – $9.99:
Amazon US
Barnes & Noble

Not only that but as a special bonus, we're hositng a little giveaway:

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