Mary Robinette Kowal is a professional puppeteer and a dang good story teller. I ran across her “Clockwork Chickadee” this last summer and forgot to blog about it. Then she won the Campbell Award. And I thought to blog it again. Now it’s November and you see what it means to run on “Brown time.” But however belated my review, this story is marvelous. The images have stuck in my mind since that first reading. And the chickadee, well, let me share the beginning with you.
The clockwork chickadee was not as pretty as the nightingale. But she did not mind. She pecked the floor when she was wound, looking for invisible bugs. And when she was not wound, she cocked her head and glared at the sparrow, whom she loathed with every tooth on every gear in her pressed-tin body.
The sparrow could fly.
He took no pains to conceal his contempt for those who could not.
I am an impatient reader: if the story doesn’t grab me within the first few lines, I usually pass. I’m trying very hard not to be so demanding and extend this to two pages (no, I do not have the fortitude some readers do to extend this to twenty, forty, or sixty pages). But sometimes I slip back into my old ways. However, with Clockwork Chickadee I didn’t need to remember to be patient. I just read and read and read some more.
For those who care about story, you’ll notice it doesn’t run on the normal fuel of sympathy and suspense. This is a curiosity story. And Kowal does it so well.