Clockwork Stars is a dystopian novel with steampunk elements. The story takes place on New Earth, a world that people have escaped to after devastating their home planet. Something strange has happened here. There was an explosion, followed by chaos and the disappearance of the population. The book follows two protagonists who try to find their place in the new world: Astra, a teenage girl who has lost her family and Flynn, a traumatized soldier with mysteriously dark past.
The narrative is in the first person, switching between the protagonists.
It starts with Astra, living alone as if she’s the only person left on the planet. The mood set from the very beginning seems somber and grim, the narrative introspective and detached, suiting the desolated, lonely world of New Earth. The details about the apocalyptic event that left the world in its current state are filled when we jump a year into the past. The narrative keeps switching between the past and present, allowing us to discover more about the characters, however, not much is clear until the very end, and after each peek into the past, I was left with more questions.
The pacing is slow, not much happens, and we spend most of the time in the protagonists’ heads, focusing mainly on spaces in between the occasional events, conversations or musings about those events, recollections and flashbacks, but not the events themselves.
I do love when the author allows a glimpse into their characters minds, but in this case, I had a couple of issues. First, there was no difference between the protagonists’ voices. If it weren’t for their names in chapter titles or details about them, it would be impossible to distinguish between them. Second, I missed being in the moment together with the characters, experiencing it with them. The narrative seems to brush the events briefly, in a detached manner, quickly moving on. I mentioned earlier that not much happened in the book, but maybe that’s not exactly the case, it’s just that little attention is paid to those meaningful situations that move the story forward, while most of the attention is focused on things like walking, thinking, talking, etc. We are constantly in the characters heads, but they seem detached from their own experiences, merely observing them, not living through them.
Because of all the above, the book felt a bit monotonous, and my mind started wondering at times. Still, I was curious what would happen next, wanted to know more about Flynn and the event that led to all the destruction. I enjoyed the steampunk elements, most of which appear in the second half of the story, when the conspiracy behind the mysterious apocalyptic event is uncovered. There were some questions that remained unanswered and a couple of things that I found hard to believe, but overall it was an interesting story in an unusual setting, sometimes visually striking. I think the atmosphere the author managed to create perfectly suits the dystopian, broken world of New Earth.
The book explores the subjects of trauma, loss and loneliness, and there is a dedication “for those who feel trapped by mental health” in the beginning. To me it felt like the novel was mostly about those things, and the dystopian story merely created a setting for exploring the psychology of the people who have to deal with trauma. As if the key focus of the book was creating an immersive experience that would allow the reader to have a glimpse into the mind of a traumatized person.
The ending seemed unexpectedly hopeful. The importance of friendship, family and having people you can rely on is another theme that appears throughout the book.
You might enjoy the novel if you like slow-paced, introspective stories set in a dystopian, steampunk environment. It’s available on Amazon.
Check out my interview with the author!
E.R.Johnson’s passion for writing and story telling sparked from a young age and she can often be found daydreaming of other worlds built in her imagination.
She currently resides in England where, when she’s not working or writing, she can instead be found painting, playing music or most likely with her head in a book.