Review: “Machinations,” Hayley Stone

Pros: Fantastic worldbuilding and wonderful characters!
Cons: I need to understand more about the machines
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Hayley Stone’s Machinations brings us into the world of a robot apocalypse. While there are traces of the Terminator story (hard to avoid at least in part), this is something new. This is the story of Commander Rhona Long, who died and didn’t stay dead. Rhona Long, who has raised morale through her communications, reminding everybody that even though life seems unwinnable, there is always hope. The tale takes place in Alaska, through two bases (McKinley and Churchill) and then into Juneau itself. It’s a world where life is fleeting and precious, but now that Rhona is back from the dead, the world both needs her and no longer trusts her.

 

Most unusual is the opening. Rhona has been horribly injured and is dying in the arms of her lover, Camus. Usually when a book immediately drops you into the frenzy of action that involves people who are in love, it can be difficult to empathize with the couple because you haven’t yet been shown why you should empathize with them. It’s hard to take the relationship seriously because for the reader, it only just started. But Machinations starts out with fighting, in which two people are also dealing with the guts of a relationship, and it absolutely worked. There was something so compelling in that relationship that I immediately felt it. Splendid job on the author’s part.

After Rhona dies and returns, those close to her have to decide whether they trust her and whether she even is Rhona. Not to mention, she needs to find some memories that seem to be eluding her.

I do have some criticisms of the revolting machines. First, why are the machines limiting themselves artificially? There’s just no need to put two eye-like optics on a robot’s ‘face’, especially ones that actually take out the machine’s vision if you can destroy them. Why aren’t the machines devising things like, oh, I don’t know, a ring of optics around the head for perfect 360-degree vision with redundancies? Why are the machines advancing on the cities, when most of them should have been in cities already. They should have been able to rise up from within cities, giving them an advantage in trying to kill as many people as possible. I’m also curious as to why the machines haven’t either placed a whole bunch of orbiting satellites criss-crossing the globe, or at least used the ones that are there. They should be much more aware of what the renegades are doing. Maybe there just needs to be a little more explanation as to why the machines behave in the way that they do. Although a lot of machines seem to now house AIs, where’s the boundary there? Why can the renegades use some types of machinery but not others? What makes one machine hostile and another one ‘normal’?

I love that Rhona has a nearly-inexhaustible supply of mischief, snark, puns, and (sometimes inappropriate) humor. Otherwise she wouldn’t have felt as different from similar types of characters in other books. She has a lovely, belligerent spark to her without being ridiculously single-minded. And it’s clear that she needs the help of her friends (among others) if she wants to have any chance of making it through the book alive.

 

NOTE: Free book provided by publisher for review
Expected publication date: July 26, 2016.

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