YA Novel Review - Mechanica : Betsy Cornwall

Warning: SPOILERS ahead!

I recently read a book called Mechanica. It's the future engineer meets fairy tale magic Cinderella twist, where the main character realizes she doesn't actually want to marry the prince and give up her life in the end. The reviews of the book that I found online were mixed, so to be honest I wasn't sure what to expect, but was too intrigued by the story line to not impulsively purchase the book.

In Mechanica, the protagonist discovers her mother's hidden workshop on her 16th birthday and discovers little machines that her mother had built. Machines and little robot like contraptions, but they have souls. As if the little guys are actually robots who are alive with a soul of fairy magic! Its a magic she doesn't understand, a magic some of the townsfolk think is evil. A magic that brings her little robot friends to life nonetheless.

I felt greatly drawn to this idea because in truth, any machine or robot that I work on for an extended period of time seems to become alive. I improve its functions, discover software bugs, wiring mistakes and improvements. We spend lots of time sitting next to each other, the machine and I, it beeping at me and sometimes moving unexpectedly as if sending me a message. As a matter of fact, it is telling me something. What might seem like misbehavior from my machine tells me I haven't yet solved and found all of it's bugs. If it were alive and had a soul, I would be able to talk back and ask it what was wrong, ask it for help, as the protagonist does in Mechanica. As my machines are only functioning when turned on or plugged in to power, they will only do whatever I program it to do.

As I fix issues and we spend more time together, I get to know the machine as if it were alive. I know what beeps, blinks, and noises it should be making as the machine wakes up and begins operating. I know what beeps, blinks, and noises are unexpected. I know when it doesn't feel like talking and its communication systems are down, or when there's too much interference.  I feel the intense excitement when it operates as expected and completes a mini mission or passes a milestone, however insignificant it may seem to the non-developer. All of these things can make it seem like the machine is alive, like it has a fairy-magic soul like the little robot creations do in Mechanica.

And since it is a work of fiction, why not make the robots have souls? That's what it can feel like when your robotic creation operates as expected in real life, anyway. This story truly put the emotion and imagination I have behind developing, designing, and working in robotics on paper in form of this novel. I can definitely see that girls and young women could be more attracted to mechanics, technology, and robotics through untraditionally written stories like Mechanica. It is certainly not your ordinary robotic work of science fiction.


Well done Betsy Cornwell, and happy reading to the rest of you!