Clockwork Lives

Writers: Kevin J. Anderson, Neil Peart
Artists: GBM Chomichuck, Tom Hodges, Vic Malhotra, Tony Perna, Moy R., Benjamin Roboly, Vincent Vegas
Colourists: Adrian Crossa, Alba Cardona
Publisher: Insight Comics

Review by Brooke Ali

Clockwork Lives, the new graphic novel by Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart, the legendary drummer for Rush, has a long history behind it. It is a follow up to the 2013 album Clockwork Angels and its accompanying graphic novel. Set in the same world – the world of The Anarchist and The Watchmaker, flying steamliners and alchemy mines – Clockwork Lives is ultimately a story about stories. Marinda Peake is content in her simple life with her eccentric inventor father. When he dies, she is shocked to learn of the strange stipulation he has included in his will; she can’t receive her inheritance, including the house they shared, until she travels the world filling a magic book with people’s stories.

Marinda’s narrative acts as the thread that weaves the disparate tales together, and each story she encounters is brought to life by a different artist. This allows each story to be styled in a way best suited to its theme and atmosphere. “The Bookseller’s Tale,” a Quantum-leap type dimension-hopping story about a couple of rare book dealers, is done in a wonderfully pulp style. “The Strongman’s Tale,” about a group of circus performers, looks like an 80s adventure comic. “The Seeker’s Tale” is as bright and colourful as its subject’s stories.

I’m personally a sucker for story-in-story narratives, and this has it in spades. It’s a great opportunity to see what an author can dream up when they aren’t required to stretch the idea into a full-sized narrative, and the reader gets to experience a wide variety of premises and styles. Anderson and Peart also do a great job of keeping everything grounded in the world they created. Some stories reference events or characters mentioned in other stories. Even Marinda connects seemingly unrelated stories in her travels, and she even gets to witness a previous story finally find a conclusion. As her quest goes on, her own threads become more and more intertwined with the stories she’s collecting.

The magic book collects stories by taking a drop of the subject’s blood onto its pages. I like the metaphor here, that stories are a person’s life blood. However, there are parts where it veers a bit into the sinister, like when she tells a young pickpocket that the price for her not to call the police is a drop of his blood, or when she takes the blood of a man who has just died in front of her to get his story.

Verdict: Buy it.

With twelve different tales, richly illustrated and wrapped up in a steampunk package, Clockwork Lives is a delightful read.

Originally Published: June 26, 2018

Brooke Ali
Brooke grew up in Nova Scotia on a steady diet of scifi, fantasy, anime, and video games. She now works as a genealogist and lives in Toronto with her husband and twin nerds-in-training. When she's not reading and writing about geek culture, she's knitting, spinning, and writing about social history.

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