Automatic Woman by Nathan YocumMy rating: Steampunk
Source: Publisher (via NetGalley)
Automatic Woman is an adventure story set in an alternate Victorian London, with elements of steampunk technology. Unfortunately, these elements are really incidental to the plot. Even the automatic woman herself has only a minor part to play: after murdering her creator, she is barely seen, and I was disappointed that so little time was devoted to her story. Although Jolly (a fugitive after being accused of murder) tries to uncover her secrets, and finds some mysterious etchings on her cogs, this has no real significance for the way matters progress. In fact, almost the only thing which has any impact on anything is Jolly's love of a good fight.
I also have reservations about the habit of giving almost every other character the name of a famous historical figure - it loads every scene with prior expectations, and in my experience, prevents the characters from coming to life in their own right. As Yocum's imagining of Bram Stoker, Charles Darwin, et al. bears very little relationship to my own preconceptions, I found it hard going in places.
That said, this was an enjoyable (and very quick) read, and Jolly makes an engaging and amusing narrator. If it hadn't been forced into an ill-developed steampunk setting, I would have probably found the adventure story quite satisfying in itself.