I feel… unresolved, having just completed Ian Tregillis’s The Mechanical. I was promised a story about a race of servant robots, or “Mechanicals,” that cater to humans oblivious of their servants’ seemingly unobtainable but feverish desire for Free Will. A Dutch monarch has invaded France and exiled the French people and their King to what I assume is current day America. Mechanicals are treated by humans as merely helpful but unthinking possessions; however, they have minds and thoughts of rebellion. Any sympathizing or attempts to free Mechanicals from servitude is punishable by death, as freedom of their working class would remove all power from the Dutch empire. That is what I was promised and that is what I received. And yet, having completed the novel, I can’t help but feel so utterly… incomplete.
I’d imagine this is what it’s like to get dumped after what you thought was a perfect date; I do not understand what has just transpired and I’m gonna need some closure, here! I just listened to Tregillis prattle on for over 400 pages only to be left with zero resolution and all of my characters in a state of perilous limbo. And maybe that’s my problem: in terms of a compelling and complete stand-alone novel, The Mechanical is utterly insufficient. I understand that this book was written with the intent of being the first in a series, and more power to Tregillis. I do love a series. But I’m of a mind that any individual work should be able to be separated from the group and still offer the full development, climax, resolution that readers seek. By all means, leave a few plot lines dangling on the brink of mayhem; keep those readers coming back for more. But not every single one! Don’t toss every single main character into seemingly unavoidable peril in the last chapter and then hit me with the acknowledgements.
Honestly, I’m just surprised by the abrupt ending of this novel. I hate to continually compare a series to Harry Potter, LOTR, or SoIaF, but at least each of those volumes were left with an element of closure; Harry lives to see another year at Hogwarts, but Voldy is still alive; Frodo and Sam are plugging along towards Mordor, but that will be dangerous without the rest of the company; Little Finger just went nuts on Lysa Arryn, but that probably bodes well for Sansa. A good mid-series volume ties up a few ends but holds a string of potential trouble and a few dangling story lines which ensure you’ll be back. The Mechanical offered a hailstorm of misery, then “The End.” I’m not sure whether I’ll continue the series in the future; I guess I’ll let myself decide when the time comes.
What does everyone else think? Should a volume in a series be able to stand alone or should they be so heavily connected that one is incomplete without the others? I’d love to know what everyone thinks. I’m not giving up on Tregillis; although the story itself was frustrating, the writing and story-telling was wonderful, and I’ve heard good things about his other novel, Bitter Seeds, so that is my next endeavor. Stay tuned!