Monday, September 28, 2015
Like Clockwork (audiobook) by Bonnie Dee, narrated by Helen Stern
Again, I haven't included any read-alikes.
I was so happy when I realized that Carina Press has several audiobooks on Audible priced at less than $5. I identified a few with interesting-sounding descriptions, culled the ones with truly terrible narrators, and then selected one that I knew I didn't already own in e-book form. The book I ended up with was this one, Like Clockwork. I listened to the full sample, but I didn't bother to hunt down the e-book excerpt. Maybe I should have. Or maybe it wouldn't have made a difference.
At any rate, on the surface this seemed like a good fit for me. I like steampunk, and the narrator sounded fine. There would potentially be automatons. Nice, right?
Wrong. Right from the start, the heroine annoyed me. She was involved in the creation of the automatons (actually, from what I could tell, the only thing she invented was their realistically human exteriors, but whatever), but she was horrified at how quickly society had adopted them. She had intended for them to replace humans in dangerous jobs, that's it, but instead people started assigning them to service positions. (One more thing: why did the automatons need realistically human exteriors if they were just going to be doing dangerous industrial jobs? Victoria really didn't think this through very well.) Victoria grudgingly had one as a butler, and she even spotted one taking care of a child. The horror! What would become of children raised by stiff, soulless, emotionless machines? And what about those reports Victoria had gotten of automatons spontaneously attacking humans? Later examination revealed nothing wrong with the automatons, so what was going on?
I admit, the anti-automaton aspects were obvious in the description. But I had expected the situation to not be quite so black-and-white. In particular, I was very upset by developments near the end. It reminded me of evil AI stories, which I absolutely hate. It didn't make sense, unless there was someone (a human someone) behind the scenes pulling the strings, but there was no evidence of that. It felt so lazy.
I might have been able to live with that, and the disappointingly light steampunk aspects, if Dash and Victoria had made a more enjoyable couple. Unfortunately they did not. I hated their romance so very much.
Okay, so they first met when Dash chloroformed Victoria and kidnapped her. He and his anti-automaton group hoped to use Victoria to stir up anti-automaton sentiment somehow. The details were kind of fuzzy and badly thought out – Dash was stupidly impulsive. Anyway, I knew immediately that I was going to hate the romance when Dash felt a “hot stab of lust” while looking at Victoria's unconscious form. I would love it if all romance novels and books with strong romantic subplots would quit doing things like this. It is disgusting. I don't care if the hero (or heroine, but it's almost always the hero who lusts over the unconscious heroine) feels ashamed at his reaction. I do not want a hero lusting after an unconscious woman, period. Particularly if he doesn't even know her. That makes him creepy and gross and definitely not hero material.
It got worse. Dash and Victoria turned out to be quite a pair. Dash was the kind of guy who lusted after chloroformed strangers, and Victoria was the sort of woman who felt “a heat that surged through her” when she looked at the guy who chloroformed and kidnapped her. They had known each other for maybe a few hours. This romance was terrible.
The only decent thing about this book was the narrator, and even she was just okay. Her “voice” for Dash bore an unfortunate resemblance to Stephen Briggs' “voice” for some of Terry Pratchett's trolls.
If I could sell or donate my Audible audiobooks, I'd offload this one, because I don't ever plan to re-listen to it. Once was enough. More than enough.