The Clockwork Man
Talk of coincidence, I was unpacking my decade old Black Forest Cuckoo Clock from Germany when I received this novel by courier. Oh! What coincidence. I wanted to see if my clock from Germany still worked after so many years. 🙂
When I read the foreword and then the first chapter it sort of let the cat out in the sense that the clockwork man survived the two turns of centuries and was still working.
The Clockwork Man is a science fiction written by a professor of “Novel Writing” Mr William Jablonsky.
The novel is spread over two sets of periods, one in the late 19th century, near Frankfurt, Germany and the other in Milwaukee in the USA in the recent times (2005). Why Milwaukee? Because the author has spent a considerable time in that area. 😀
He describes the trials and tribulations of a machine man, who can think, hear, see, talk and feel but can’t smell or cry. And probably not contemplate as we humans are wont to do. In his own words the clockwork man says the master probably wanted it that way which gave him a rigid sense of right and the wrong.
The author’s concept of jumping 100 years is novel in itself. Especially when we see the clockwork man, Ernst, deal with markedly different cultures , one of late 19th century in Germany and other the current day America with all the slang and such. It does bring a smile or two at places.
When some one keys him to life Ernst finds himself in a shop window, for all visitors to see. It takes a while before he realizes that more than hundred years have passed. Eventually, with the help of Greeley, the vagabond, his new American friend, he learns of the pains of Second World War and Germany’s destruction. He almost cries to find that his town is not on the map anymore. Almost…. because he cant cry any way.
At one place when Greeley takes him for a walk, he finds it odd that no one pays any attention to them. He reminisces “I find their (passersby) behavior a bit odd – at home (in Frankfurt) it was considered rude to pass a fellow Frankfurter on the street without at least a nod or brief hello”.
Once I came to know that he would be “alive” after 100 years, I felt the events of the old period dragged on, could have been a bit more crisp. However, once you finish the novel one can understand why. The author painstakingly tries to make a human out of Ernst by establishing his love (in his own way) for his master’s daughter Giselle, who is killed by a maniac. Probably reading the foreword was a mistake.
The whole story is in a form of a diary addressed to a Professor Wellesley (Other than this, there are no references to the professor) kept by Ernst which he would one day hand over to the professor.
Once he realizes it that the Professor must already be dead, he continues to write the diary in hope that some one would publish it one day and glory returned to the Master. At times he is so sad thinking about Giselle, the war etc that he contemplates suicide, meaning just wind down completely. Perhaps the author wanted to show a transformation from a mindless automaton to a human being.
At times I felt, the author wanted to create a Super Hero out of Ernst.
The ending, I thought, was a bit abrupt. He runs away from the store one last time to deliver the account of his life to another German clock maker again with the help of Greeley.
All in all a difficult subject, but I guess I have read better science fiction. I give it a overall rating of 5 out of 10.
By the way after a bit cleaning and dusting my Cuckoo Clock works! 😀