The crippled god of metallurgy, fire, and alchemy has many names and many faces—sometimes Hephaestus, Ptah, or Vulcan. He changes to suit his needs. And just like his names, his creations have gone through countless revisions. This time, he’s finally onto something—his Automata have turned the heads of other gods. They’ve noticed their pre-programmed potential. There’s a reason Vulcan didn’t scrap the Automata—a reason he left them in the care of humans all this time. They were just the beta testers for his most intricate windup toy yet…
Vulcan’s ancient Automata find their purpose rebooted in the second installment of the CIRCO DEL HERRERO/THE BLACKSMITH’S CIRCUS series. Their immortal human Masters will drop like flies—superfluous in the next round as the gods shuffle in a new deck of fateful cards. The Masters can choose how and when, but they will all die to free the Automata of their earthly chains. Odys and his Automaton, Maud, struggle to protect his twin sister from the plotting of his dual-bodied adversaries. But his sister, Odissa, finds herself a willing participant in The Blacksmith’s latest exhibition—could she be the missing cog to the god’s tightly wound machine all along?
In this thrilling sequel to THE AUTOMATION, the Narrator and Editor drag readers deeper into the dark history and even darker future of the Automata. When the subterranean god emerges with his postlapsarian blueprint, so will the truth about B.L.A. and G.B. Gabbler. Ideal for fans of Scott Hawkin’s The Library at Mount Char, Jo Walton’s The Just City, and all the way to Homer’s The Odyssey, THE PRE-PROGRAMMING is a literary outrage that dares you to keep reading between the lines and the footnotes.
These novels are written in a unique style, being presented as a manuscript penned by the mysterious BLA and annotated by an editor known only as Gabbler. BLA and Gabbler are as much a part of the cast of characters as Odys, Mother, or any of the others while the actual author remains anonymous. This might appear a bit gimmicky but it makes the concept that much more real and it’s easy to forget that BLA and Gabbler are fictitious. The third person omniscient narrative is astounding, mostly due to said narrator’s personality but the contradictions, questions, and extrapolations raised in the footnotes add dimension to the narration.
The plot of The Pre-programming is in constant motion and delivers plenty of blindsides as it rolls toward an impossible to guess at conclusion. One of the aspects of this novel that I enjoyed most was just how unpredictable it was. There is no way I can mention specific parts of the story without risking that I might reveal potential spoilers.
My only dislike in this novel is Dorian and Odissa’s relationship. I covered this in my review of The Automation but my opinion has evolved somewhat. Dorian and Odissa’s romance is a disaster of control issues, jealousy, and power struggles so toxic that it will give you radiation poisoning. I had difficulty reading them, and I’m having difficulty now assessing how problematic this aspect of the novel is since, even though the narrative doesn’t romanticise it, the only reason they’re in love is the goddess Venus herself decided they should be. On the other hand, one wouldn’t expect healthy relationships from this cast of characters, not when their normal lives include incest, theft, murder, and repeated suicide attempts. Difficult as it was to read, it fits the story overall and the relationship growth arc, with all its jaw-dropping twists and epic drama, is oddly satisfying.
Although The Pre-programming is a darker sort of Urban Fantasy, it’s not without humour. Apart from the more morbid comedy one often encounters in dark fantasy, the narrator and editor have a lackadaisical air that’s often funny to read. This aspect is also evident in minor details, like the spoiler edition FAQs in the beginning, the blurbs on the back cover, and this statement on the copyright page: ‘No animals were harmed in the making of this product. Except cats. We read aloud to them. They didn’t seem to like it.’
This novel is dark, unpredictable, and innovative, a unique gem for fans of Urban Fantasy and Greco-Roman mythology who appreciate a little sensationalism.
Book provided by the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review