Review: The Havoc Machine by Steven Harper

Posted June 21, 2013 by B. in 3.5 stars, Rating B, Steampunk Fiction Tags: , , ,

The Havoc Machine
Author: Steven Harper 
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: ROC
Clockwork Empire Book 4
ISBN: #978-0451417046
Genre: Steampunk, Fantasy
Format(s): Paperback (400 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Publisher
About the book:
In a world riddled with the destruction of men and machines alike, Thaddeus Sharpe takes to the streets of St. Petersburg, geared toward the hunt of his life….
Thaddeus Sharpe’s life is dedicated to the hunting and killing of clockworkers. When a mysterious young woman named Sofiya Ekk approaches him with a proposition from a powerful employer, he cannot refuse. A man who calls himself Mr. Griffin seeks Thad’s help with mad clockwork scientist Lord Havoc, who has molded a dangerous machine. Mr. Griffin cares little if the evil Lord lives or dies; all he desires is Havoc’s invention.
Upon Thad’s arrival at Havoc’s laboratory, he is met with a chilling discovery. Havoc is not only concealing his precious machine; he has been using a young child by the name of Nikolai for cruel experiments. Locked into a clockwork web of intrigue, Thad must decipher the dangerous truth surrounding Nikolai and the chaos contraption before havoc reigns….
What B is talking about:
Since the murder of his son, Thaddeus Sharpe has cared about only one thing: relieving the world of its population of clockworkers. Revered by those who have suffered at the hands of these madmen, he is ruthless in his pursuit of them, and quick to dispatch justice once he finds them. But, when a beautiful woman enlists him to recover a special invention for a secretive benefactor, he inadvertently embarks on a journey that will make him question every step he takes, and turn everything he believes in upside down.
The Havoc Machine takes place during the reign of tsar Alexander III of Russia and the unrest caused by the oppression that went largely unchecked at the time. As has been true with previous novels in this series, Mr. Harper takes great care to weave the more fantastical elements of his story around historical fact. While the clockwork plague is central to the problems facing Thaddeus and Sofiya, it is the underlying, irrefutable conflict between the classes that is truly in need of attention. The Havoc Machine is part social commentary which, while told through the lens of history, is still relevant, and isn’t wrong in its implication that we don’t learn nearly as much from that history as we should.
As it is primarily a work of fantasy, there isn’t a great deal of romance in The Havoc Machine. Thaddeus and Sofiya have moments of true tenderness during the course of the story, but even that serves a greater purpose in the end. Still, there are quite a few moments when they seem to really like antagonizing each other, which I enjoyed. Their connection beyond the job they’re hired to do is obvious, however, and I found myself hoping they’d find a way to make something more of their relationship before the story’s end.
While not my favorite novel of the Clockwork Empire in terms of science and adventure, The Havoc Machine was very effective in that it led me to do some research of my own, as well tugging at my heart. This novel is quite dark in places, but so are history and science, both of which we still stand to learn a lot from. Thad’s loss is what fuels his hate, yet is by turns the thing that allows him to change. He finds in himself a kind of empathy that is only possible through the infliction of wounds that are unbearably slow to heal, yet which may be the only thing that ties us to our own humanity. Regardless, I still think this is a fascinating series, and, as long as Mr. Harper continues to explore all the possibilities within it, I’ll be more than happy to continue the journey.
Bs Rating:

Liked it a lot – recommend (B+)

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