The Clockwork Dynasty: A Novel by Daniel H. WilsonThe Clockwork Dynasty: A Novel by Daniel H. Wilson

The Clockwork Dynasty: A Novel

byDaniel H. Wilson

Hardcover | August 1, 2017

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An ingenious new thriller that weaves a path through history, following a race of human-like machines that have been hiding among us for untold centuries, written by the New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse.

Present day: When a young anthropologist specializing in ancient technology uncovers a terrible secret concealed in the workings of a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll, she is thrown into a hidden world that lurks just under the surface of our own. With her career and her life at stake, June Stefanov will ally with a remarkable traveler who exposes her to a reality she never imagined, as they embark on an around-the-world adventure and discover breathtaking secrets of the past…
 
Russia, 1725: In the depths of the Kremlin, the tsar’s loyal mechanician brings to life two astonishingly humanlike mechanical beings. Peter and Elena are a brother and sister fallen out of time, possessed with uncanny power, and destined to serve great empires. Struggling to blend into pre-Victorian society, they are pulled into a legendary war that has raged for centuries.
 
The Clockwork Dynasty seamlessly interweaves past and present, exploring a race of beings designed to live by ironclad principles, yet constantly searching for meaning. As June plunges deeper into their world, her choices will ultimately determine their survival or extermination. Richly-imagined and heart-pounding, Daniel H. Wilson’s novel expertly draws on his robotics and science background, combining exquisitely drawn characters with visionary technology—and riveting action.
DANIEL H. WILSON is the bestselling author of Robopocalypse, Robogenesis, and Amped, among others. He was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and earned a B.S. in computer science from the University of Tulsa and a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two children.
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Title:The Clockwork Dynasty: A NovelFormat:HardcoverDimensions:320 pages, 9.6 × 6.5 × 1.3 inPublished:August 1, 2017Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385541783

ISBN - 13:9780385541787

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Prologue The age of a thing is in the feel of it. Secrets are locked in the finger­prints of cracked porcelain and the bloom of rust on metal. You’ve just got to pick up a dusty artifact in both hands and squeeze your eyelids shut. With a little thought, the mind-reeling eons of time will stretch out before you like a star-filled sky.I didn’t learn this feeling in a classroom. No scientist does.My grandfather, my dedushka . . . he taught me this awe for the forgotten past.When I was sixteen, Vasily Stefanov caught me hiding in his toolshed, rummaging through his war souvenirs and trying to open the brass padlock on a battered green ammunition box with a screwdriver. He whistled low, like a cuckoo. This was how he’d gotten my attention since I was a little girl, and I froze in embarrassment.Instead of punishing me, he told me a story.“You are so curious,” he said, words soaked in the heavy Russian accent he brought to the United States from another life. “What are you looking for?”“I’m sorry, Dedushka,” I stuttered. “Nothing. I only wanted to—”He waved me off with a callused palm.“It’s okay. Curious people learn things,” he said.My grandfather took the ammunition box from me and set it clattering on his workbench. He unlocked the padlock and opened the dented lid, revealing a few faded photographs, an old pocket watch, and scattered medals. Then, he lifted out an oily cloth with something heavy wrapped in it. Without a word, he dropped the shrouded bundle across my palms.Inside, I found something metallic and dense, something so intricate and alien that my breath caught in my throat. Etched into a crescent-shaped slice of metal the size of a seashell, I saw a labyrinthine pattern of grooves—a language of bizarre angles.“This thing,” he said. “This incredible thing. I always meant to share it, you understand? But the years march.”“It’s heavy,” I said.“It is a relic from a war. With a story I have never told anyone.”I remember his face now so clearly, lined with wrinkles that could be scary until the old man smiled and you saw where they came from.“Do you believe in angels, June?” he asked.“I don’t know,” I responded. “No.”“Perhaps you should,” he said.Grandfather cleared his throat, leaned against a creaking workbench.“I was barely a teenager, same as you, when the second world war came. My family lived in a village near the Ural Mountains. The Germans stormed onto Russian soil and it was decided I was old enough to journey to the front. All the boys in the village were sent. We were excited. Excited.”He shook his head at the memory.“Stalingrad. Winter,” he said. “Early in the battle. We were already starving. Frozen. The Germans had pushed a million Soviet soldiers nearly to the banks of the Volga. The women and children and wounded who were left in the city . . . they finally tried to escape across the icy black river. All hope was gone. It was only survival then.“The Volga was choked with great green military tankers, filthy fishing rigs, civilian yachts, and human beings, thousands of them, a—a . . . mass of them, clinging to anything that would float. And the low gray clouds over the river were screaming with Nazi warplanes. The sky was weeping tears of fire onto the backs of those women and children. Oil and gas had spilled on the water. The river herself was burning.“I and the other scouts were on the near bank, covering the retreat. Stalingrad itself was already bombed to oblivion. You can’t understand . . . it was a moonscape. Another world. A place of shattered brick and wood. Crumbling walls sagging in fields that were once neighborhoods, empty windows like open mouths, vomiting dust. The fallen froze where they lay and were not buried.“We boys survived like rodents, climbing through the remains of collapsed basements or abandoned trenches. Nothing aboveground was left. We lived this horror for months . . . months that went on for eternity. Frostbite and thirst and snipers. Early on we had trained our dogs to wear explosives and run under the German tanks. Later, we ate them. And I do not know how to explain to you, vnuchka . . . but over time . . . in that strange cold world, the memory of my life faded to gray ash.“Foolishly, I came to believe there was nothing left that could horrify me.”Grandfather blinked, gazing at the open ammunition box and its dangling brass padlock. Lost in the act of remembering, he would not look at me while he spoke.“A Nazi plane must have called out our position. One minute the other boys and I were lined up in our greatcoats, rifles snapping bullets, stocks laid over a wall of rubble. ‘Not one step back,’ was the saying. Those who ran were shot. We pulled our triggers when forms appeared in the smoke and held our ground. No matter how many German helmets appeared . . . we were ready to make the sacrifice.“And then our hillside turned to chaos. A German tank had zeroed in on us. It was as if a giant had put his fist into the hill and we were thrown, flung into the sky like rag dolls, helmets rolling. A hunchbacked panzer crawled out of the mist, painted yellow and gray, like a sick tiger, the black eye of its turret searching for us. Lying on my stomach, breathing dust, eyes not focusing . . . I could hear the German crew shouting to each other. Like demons made of smoke and dust, calling out from hell.“June, please understand. What happened next . . . it is terrible. But you must know. Someday, it may help you make sense of what you hold in your hands.”My eyes dropped from Grandfather’s face to the sliver of metal lying across my fingers. I couldn’t recognize the symbols etched in its surface. They looked like warped letters, mixed with geometrical shapes, lines and dots. The metal felt strangely warm, the finely carved edges dis­solving into fractal curls. In each crescent tip was a small hole, as if the artifact were a small part of something bigger.“After the shell hit, all the other boys were gone—wiped out. My side was numb, torn by shrapnel and rock. But I could still move. Ears ringing, I rolled onto my back. And by a stroke of luck, I was alive to see what came next.“A tall man in a Soviet greatcoat and hat came staggering over the broken hillside. His face was in anguish, his movements almost blind. But he had spotted the Germans before they saw him. He dove forward and snatched the sidearm away from one soldier and fired it into his torso until there were no more bullets. In another stride, he grabbed two more soldiers in a bear hug. Then he smashed their heads together—shattered their helmets. The men fell dead. And finally, the Russian turned. I felt his gaze upon me.“We had been eating rats, June. We were weak. But this man was strong. He was holy. My eyes filled with tears because I knew then he was an avenging angel, righteous, stalking the mists of battle.“And I remember that I smiled, my cracked lips bleeding. I felt I was somehow witnessing the truth. The very incarnation of justice.“A hatch on the panzer opened and the Nazi tank commander emerged, firing his tommy gun. Bullets spat right into the angel’s back. He stumbled and fell, like a man, and lay crumpled among the bodies of my friends.“The commander climbed off the tank, cautious. Trying to look every direction at once. This man had seen the furious vengeance of God and knew he had been judged. I lay still, my breath shallow, watching from beneath the turned‑up brim of my ushanka hat and trying not to shiver.“The doomed man leaned over to inspect the body. I do not know what he saw, but I will never forget his face as he saw it. His eyes went wide in shock. He spun, coat flapping, and screamed a command to his driver inside the tank, looking away for one second . . . it was enough. The angel rose, taking the man by the face. Those gloved fingers nearly reached around the back of the man’s head, lifting him off the ground. With one squeeze—”My grandfather yanked his thumb across his throat.“The tank was still idling, waiting. Then the hatch on top clanged shut and the panzer engine began to rumble. Running away. Imagine. The might of a tank, invincible and armored, fleeing from one man.“The angel stood up and shook out his tattered coat. Then the thing leaped onto the side of the tank. With one hand, he tore the hatch right off the turret. Reaching inside, he dragged the shrieking German driver out by his collar, thumped his face against the metal, and rolled his body onto the ground. Like it was nothing. Like he was slapping a fish against a rock.“The angel stood for a moment, head down in despair. Something fell from his hands. Then he walked away, disappearing into the mist. The tank kept rolling toward the river. After some time, I heard a splash. The sting of my injury was growing, but even then, curiosity had not left me. So I dragged myself over rubble and death until I reached the spot where the angel had stood.“I saw the bullets go into him. But on the ground, instead of blood, I found shards of metal. Bits of leather. Bullet fragments and something else. An object, very old I think, yet more modern than any machinery in that battle.“That is what you hold in your hands, June . . . this relic is what the angel of vengeance left behind.”My grandfather stopped speaking. He finally looked up at me, watching as I traced my fingers over the curves of the artifact.“There are strange things in the world, June. Things older than we know. Walking with the faces of men . . . there are angels among us. Sometimes they will judge. And sometimes they will exact punishment.“What you hold belongs to their world. Not to ours.”Under his stern gaze, I understood his message. Tell no one.“Most people don’t want to see a hidden world. They are content to live in ignorance. Others are more curious. What kind of person are you, June?”“I don’t know, Grandfather,” I said truthfully.With that, he carefully took the relic from me, wrapped it back in its oily cloth, and placed it inside the ammunition box. He pushed the old brass padlock back through the ring and, with a click, he locked it tight.“Can I see it again, sometime?” I asked.Grandfather looked at me for a long moment.“Someday you will,” he said, nodding.Two years later, at his funeral, my grandmother handed me a sealed envelope. My name was scrawled on it in my grandfather’s rough handwriting. Inside, I found a small thing that changed the course of my life.A brass key.

Editorial Reviews

"The Clockwork Dynasty is my new favorite secret history novel! It's like some fantastic hybrid of Highlander and The Terminator--or maybe a cross between I, Robot and The Difference Engine, with a dash of Blade Runner for good measure. It reads like classic steampunk on steroids. In other words, it's totally bad ass and you're going to love it." --Ernest Cline, The New York Times bestselling author of Ready Player One"Daniel H. Wilson is one of the foremost prophets of the near future. . . In The Clockwork Dynasty, the irrepressibly readable Wilson has retreated to pseudo-vampiric sentient robots. I say retreated because he’s dealing with the past and present, rather than the future — though his rewriting of the past is no less radical than his speculative work. . .The plot is driven by a human protagonist, June Stefanov. She represents human history and continues Wilson’s excellent run of female lead characters — a distinction not to be sniffed at in male-written robot sci-fi."--The Los Angeles Review of Books"This bold adventure is a stew of cult-classic concepts—the avtomat reflect the Immortals in the Highlander franchise, while the ancient and deadly Elena is reminiscent of child vampire Claudia in Interview with the Vampire. It may wear its influences on its sleeve but it's also a welcome treat for steampunk and fantasy fans. A thrilling mix of influences, much like Sylvain Neuvel's Sleeping Giants and HBO's Westworld, that creates a captivating scenario begging for many sequels."--Kirkus (starred review)"Brilliantly conceived and executed . . . this is science fiction at its best—thoughtful, challenging, beautifully written and astonishing."--Booklist (starred review)"The Clockwork Dynasty is a hybrid: engrossing historical fiction starring ancient androids and mile-a-minute present-day action thriller . . . June's mad dash to flee a secret society bent on taking her knowledge and her life evokes the best moments of Dan Brown."--Shelf Awareness"New York Times bestselling author Daniel H. Wilson delivers a fascinating new thriller that takes us on a journey to the past discovering human-like machines that have lived among us for centuries."--Library Journal"Wilson has a great knack for pace and engaging action; it’s a book that is very difficult to put down. It’s an exceptional piece of speculative fiction, set in a world that I would very much like to visit again. Steampunk and other genre fiction fans should give it a whirl."--The Maine Edge"What Wilson does as well as any writer alive is create self-contained and fully realized worlds—the cinematic stuff of dreams and stardust, mixed with the dirt of actual living. He does so with sensitivity, intelligence and a gift for near-baroque detail."--Willamette Weekly"With hints of Highlander, a touch of The Terminator, shards of Edward Scissorhands, and a dusting of Doctor Zhivago, Wilson's latest introduces an autonomous race of ancient androids not so different from ourselves. It's a thoroughly engaging read that traps you in its grinding narrative cogs and lingers long after the final page has turned."--SyFy Wire"In The Clockwork Dynasty, Daniel Wilson, the king of the robothriller, mixes robots, history and non-stop action to create a thoroughly original plot. Think The Terminator meets Indiana Jones with a crash course in history thrown in. A thoroughly enjoyable read."--Phillip Margolin, New York Times bestselling author of Violent Crimes"With The Clockwork Dynasty, Daniel H. Wilson has created a ripping, pulsing whirlwind of a world: a sweeping tale of forgotten secrets and wars, of empires and those who topple them, of identities given and taken away, of robots who seem to know better than we just what it means to be human. This is Wilson's most adventurous, romantic, utterly thrilling work, and it's not to be missed."--Jason Gurley, author of Eleanor"The Clockwork Dynasty is bravely imagined and satisfyingly executed. Wilson has woven a brilliant fictional world into history, making this book a great read for lovers of historical fiction as well as fantasy and sci-fi."--Bookpage"In the spirit of some of my personal favorites (He, She, and It and The Golem and the Jinni), The Clockwork Dynasty imagines a world where 'artificial intelligence' is something altogether different, and where the meaning of 'human' has become more than flesh and bone."--Veronica Belmont, host of The Sword and Laser"Action-packed and uniquely imagined with robots--and history!--like you've never seen before, The Clockwork Dynasty is a thrilling ride from start to finish."   --John Joseph Adams, series editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy