Pinion – Jay Lake

 Blood, Sweat, and Gears: no Tears. Nonetheless it’s great.
Pinion by Jay Lake.
Stars: 4.5 of five.
My spoilerish summary, inspired by the jacket copy: Paolina has crossed the Equatorial Wall and seeks a home in the Southern Earth.  She hopes to stop using her power so destructively, but is continually faced with unavoidable need to do so.
Mask Childress styles herself as a diplomat and attempts to halt the war between England and China, yet ends up embroiled deeper and deeper.
Boaz is troubled by conflicting goals, thoughts, and emotions. Does he want to restore his nation of Brass Men, does he want to reunite with Paolina, and what role should he play in the conflict?
Gashansunu, a ‘power’ of the South, travels from her power base in search of Paolina. She finds herself further from her home than she ever thought possible.
Kitchens, a clerk/assassin dispatched with multiple orders from England, travels in an almost directionless arc as he’s buffeted by these much larger forces.  He ends up pursuing only one of his missions, but this sweeps in virtually all the other main characters. 

Pinion is the third and best-so-far book in Jay Lake’s Clockwork Earth universe.

Pinion combines the best aspects of the first and second books in the trilogy, to make a closing book that is better than its predecessors put together.   Mainspring (book one) had great descriptive writing and philosophical richness but I wanted a stronger sense of momentum.  Escapement, book two, had a great pace and strong action, but I wasn’t as struck by the atmosphere or the subtext.  In Pinion, the pace is brisk and the characters converge on a common goal plus there is thought-provoking conflict between free will, destiny, belief, and religion.

High points

  • Paolina comes face-to-face with Hethor, after he was totally absent in the middle book.  I was glad to see him included in the narrative.  They have some interesting philosophical notes to compare –  and yet tedium is avoided too.

  • Mask Childress and Captain Leung get the chance to hold hands and recognize that they have grown fond of each other.
  • Boaz and Gashansunu each embody some really complicated conflicts between the sense of identity and  what is real… and the extent of the importance of each. I am sure there is loads of subtext that I did not pick up. I half-paused a few times to think ‘wow, that’s got huge implications’ and then shook it off to continue chasing the story.
  • The one new character, Clerk Kitchens from England, adds a good fresh perspective on all this insanity, as well as the eventual goal for them all to attain.

So, where is the missing half star?

If it’s this great, why didn’t I give Pinion five stars?  Possibly I will upgrade it after a re-read.  This book packs a huge amount into less than 350 hard-cover pages.  I do feel like there are depths that I did not explore.  Many of the books I rank as ‘best I have ever read’ have reached that status only after multiple reads.

For now, it’s 4.5 stars…  in part because it didn’t make me cry this first time through.  Not to be flippant, but I didn’t get completely dragged in emotionally on top of the suspense and philosophy.

The character development was more interesting in Escapement.  I am not knocking what Boaz goes through here – that’s great – but I was hoping to feel more about Al Wazir, Childress, and Paolina.  They didn’t change as much during this book as I might hope.

I look forward to reading this book again in a year or two – to see what I find. 🙂

Other posts touching on Pinion (added by me, not generated)

Did I overlook your review? Let me know in a comment, and I can add the link here.

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  1. [links] Link salad feels even a bit more like its old self |

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