four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
36-Sept-Oct-2008
By: 
Jay Lake
user_rating: 
0
Award Year: 
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A-EscapementSF and fantasy writer Jay Lake, winner of the 2004 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, has published more than 200 short stories, a handful of collections, and four novels, including Rocket Science, Trial of Flowers, and Mainspring, the predecessor to his latest effort, Escapement.

The Story: 1902. On the surface, everything seems as it should. The sun never sets on Queen Victoria’s empire, and history as we know it plays out in familiar ways. But not so fast: in Escapement (set two years after the end of Mainspring), the universe is part of a vast clockwork, the machination of an unknown entity. Enter Paolina Barthes, a budding genius and sorcerer isolated on the Equatorial Wall; Threadgill Angus al-Wazir, a disgraced naval officer tasked with finding a route through the Wall to Southern Earth; and Emily McHenry Childress, a Yale Divinity School librarian and the keeper of important secrets. The three have their own reasons—but a common goal—for undertaking their perilous journey off the Wall in their desire to "escape."
Tor. 384 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0765317095

Sci Fi Weekly 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Beneath all the stimulating excitement Lake layers in several potent themes, continuing, for instance, his former philosophical debate about the nature of the cosmos and its creator. … Fantasy has always been ‘escapist’ in the best sense of the word, and Lake engineers a fine tale of humans in search of liberation from the clockwork and customs that ensnare them and us as well." Paul Di Filippo

SFSignal 4 of 5 Stars
"[Escapement is] one of the few ‘second-in-the-series’ novels that not only are as good as the first, but better. … The best element of Escapement is the world Lake has built." JP Frantz

Fantasy Book Critic 4 of 5 Stars
"Like Mainspring, Escapement is a smart, creative and distinctive blend of late 19th century steampunk, alternate history, fantasy, and science fiction. … [The novel] seamlessly integrates actual history with the fantastical." Robert Thompson

Critical Summary

Escapement is a more ambitious, and, in many ways, a more complex book than its predecessor, Mainspring. Though both books are clever combinations of steampunk (SF elements translated to the Victorian era), alternate history, and fantasy, Lake hits his stride here, neatly balancing intriguing characters with the sort of clear, driving plot (and a few important subplots) and world building that keeps readers in the game. Lake’s star is on the rise in the science fiction and fantasy genres, and critics believe that this book is strong enough to warrant consideration for a Hugo. A cliffhanger ending almost certainly ensures another book in this remarkable cycle.