Zak Corbin: Master of Machines by Tony Russo
Review by Jasper de Joode
All young Zak Corbin wants is a robot – in a time when nearly everyone has one. But there is great fear of the Corbin name. Doctor Elias Corbin was regarded as a famous builder of robots until he unleashed an attack on a military factory. Branded a madman and a traitor, Zak’s uncle was sentenced to spend the rest of his days on Penitentiary Island.
When fifteen-year-old Zak tries to build a robot of his own, mostly to get the attention of pretty sophomore Lisabeth Ryan, it leads to an adventure of gigantic proportions. Zak builds one of his uncle’s banned robots, which he dubs Pogo, and he quickly discovers the machine goes far beyond what ordinary robots can do. But when Zak wishes he could set his uncle free, Pogo breaks Doctor Corbin out of prison, leading to a confrontation with a secret weapon: a terrifying giant war machine.
When I first came across Zak Corbin: Master of Machines I immediately got the urge that I just had to read this book. Featuring a fifteen year old building robots. For some stories you are never too old! On another note Tony Russo, the author, was a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award with Zak Corbin: Master of Machines. So this just had to be a good story!
A great feat about Zak Corbin: Master of Machines is the where the story takes place. An alternate version of the United States of America. Beginning in Tennessee in 1940, and later taking place in New Futura City, 15 years later. Tony Russo created just the right setting where you get the feeling of mid 1900’s industrial revolutionized combined with robots, hover-cars and monorails. It is right there in between steampunk and the future-future.
In the introducing chapter you get introduced to Dr. Elias Corbin, the uncle of Zak. Who after quite a stand-off between robots gets imprisoned. After this scene the story skips 15 years to the present and you get to meet up with Zak, his friends and his parents. Zak was nicely put together. He is 15 years old, attending high school, brainy and of course bad with girls. He has two nice friends Odie and Jason. As you see Zak in high school you see that he is being bullied and that he just wants to fit in. Which is for him impossible since he hasn’t got a robot. Yes, the society in New Futura City, especially among the youngsters is to show-off how great a robot you have. But past events have meant that Zak is not allowed to have one… What I liked about the character of Zak is that he shows that perseverance pays-off, he is a cheery kid who does not let himself be batted out. Even is his attempts do not succeed he is not going to sit and mope, he goes on a new approach and try to get it better next time around. A great virtue to have. Next is Elias, his uncle, who is in prison. From the beginning you get to know that he attempted and attack on a military facility but not much more. He is shown as the “mad-scientist” type. It was quite funny and originally created how Zak and his uncle had communications, they were allowed to write letters to each other but with no leads to robot mechanics. This was circumvented in a ingenious way, just adding a little more sugar to the frosting!
Next to Zak and Elias, the friends Odie and Jason support Zak every which way. They also are a bit of the outcast at high school. As Zak grows more confident, he approaches the girl he likes, Lisabeth. You see him try, but he is just not that proficient with girls and is questioning himself. It was quite nice to read about his endeavours to see Lisabeth in her dance rehearsal, this just sprang to mind how you would see someone in a movie, crawling through the auditorium to spy on someone. Lisabeth, Jason and Odie have more the role of supporting Zak in all what he is planning to do. But will Zak come out of the “friend-zone” with Lisabeth as he so much wishes?
A general element that you see throughout the story is that the family of the Corbins is divided. Zak really wants to build robots like his uncle. But his parents do not want to turn the “Corbin” name in to a feared one once again. Although Zak comes with some convincing evidence about how everything came to pass his parents just won’t give in. It might just by being not allowed to build robots where Zak get his motivation to keep on going and make them better.
The pacing of the book was great from the beginning you’re in a linearly phase where everything is explained with the help of a private eye. As a soon as Zak finds a certain schematic while cleaning out the attic the story goes on a roller-coaster ride. Having achieved what was impossible. He becomes the Master of Machines… but with this new title there are certain consequences which he did not know. The ending of the book leaved nothing to be desired, it is a story where everything turns out for the better. On top of this there is nice lead into a possible sequel in the last two sentences of the book. Zak Corbin: Master of Machines is a great book, isn’t tinkering and creating robots any boys dream?
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