The capital-A Automatons of Greco-Roman myth aren’t clockwork. Their design is much more divine. They’re more intricate than robots or androids or anything else mortal humans could invent. Their windup keys are their human Masters. They aren’t mindless; they have infinite storage space. And, because they have more than one form, they’re more versatile and portable than, say, your cell phone—and much more useful too. The only thing these god-forged beings share in common with those lowercase-A automatons is their pre-programmed existence. They have a function—a function their creator put into place—a function that was questionable from the start…
Odys (no, not short for Odysseus, thank you) finds his hermetic lifestyle falling apart after a stranger commits suicide to free his soul-attached Automaton slave. The humanoid Automaton uses Odys’s soul to “reactivate” herself. Odys must learn to accept that the female Automaton is an extension of his body—that they are the same person—and that her creator-god is forging a new purpose for all with Automatons…
Description taken from Goodreads
The characters in this novel, both human and Automata, are believable and intriguing. There’s a delightful interplay between plot and characters as the past of this secret society as well as individual backstories and Automation history come to bear on the motives and origins of the current situation. The premise that an Automation runs on its Master’s soul, effectively stealing and embodying it, provides nuance to both parties in this bond.
Many of the Masters have a sexual relationship with their Automata and this can appear deviant since certain automata look like children. The incest wasn’t as big a deal as you might think, but it gets downright peculiar in the latter third of the book. This is when the author introduces a homosexual man attracted to a woman, except he’s always been bisexual with a preference for men and he really identifies as a girl. It comes off as a rough and hard attempt to justify the implausible scenario and is twice as odd because it’s uncharacteristic of the care and subtlety with which the rest of the book is written. The unequal power balance in this budding relationship is equally problematic as there’s no room for the woman to consent.
The plot is a little slow at first but the author raises enough questions to keep the reader intrigued. Allusions to the greater scheme of things trail through the narrative and lead in to a thrilling denouement as the pieces fall into place. The ending is purposefully incomplete to some degree as the author leaves many questions unanswered but concludes Odys’s character development satisfactorily.