Like Clockwork by Damien Love

(8.5/10) Atmospheric, gripping and full of robots and adventure.

There is much to commend Like Clockwork. First and foremost it is an exciting adventure tale for older children, secondly it is adorned with lovely steampunk-themed black-and-white illustrations that perfectly compliment the narrative. It also uses the old-fashioned method of producing the work in episodic instalments - or serialisation if you will - and this I thought worked really well as it is a format that naturally creates suspense, cliff-hangers and intricately woven plots. Like Clockwork is an adventure story that should hold great appeal to young readers of today.

As the serialisation beings we meet 12-year-old schoolboy Alex who, just before Christmas, receives an old toy robot from his globe-trotting grandfather. It doesn't seem anything unusual but when the old man himself arrives just in time to save him from an attack by sinister little robots Alex begins to realise there's something different, possibly deadly, about his latest acquisition. Fleeing across a snowy Europe, Alex and his grandfather are pursued by assassins both human and mechanical. What is it about the old toy that makes them targets for murder..?

The opening in a snowy Prague helps set a chilly, sinister and urgent tone that survives through to the very end. The narrative is descriptive and adeptly written, with a trace of the gothic about it, and while it reminded me of the excellent The Toymaker by Jeremy de Quidt most will likely find comparison with the Dr Who stories they have enjoyed in the past – indeed the illustrations in which Alex’s grandfather appear show him to have more than a little of the John Pertwee about him!

I found myself feeling contented while reading, with a smile always simmering. The story took me right back to my own childhood, allowing me to wallow in pleasant nostalgia and remember those heady days of leaving childhood and entering the daunting and formidable world of the adults. The story contains such classic ingredients as bullying, unpopularity at school, an absent parent – all things which younger readers will be able to relate to.

I would recommend Like Clockwork to those who like their books to be atmospheric, gripping and full of robots and adventure. It treats the reader like an adult regardless of their age and will thrill and chill with equal measure. There have been many books written in recent times that look to address imbalances in literature, often in regards to female characters, and this book does something similar in that takes a member of the older-generation, so often dealt a broad brush-stroke, and allows him to be an exciting and dynamic character, clever, brave and resourceful. It made for a pleasant change from the norm.

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Our interview with Damien Love

Damien Love has written about movies, music and television for, among others, The Guardian, Uncut, The Sunday Herald and The Scotsman. He is also the author of Like Clockwork, an adventure serial full of magic, mystery, robot [...]

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