Made Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Recommended for fans of The Littles
Read October  2021
★   ★   ★   

On the upside, I can now spell ‘Tchaikovsky.’ Anything that isn’t spelled correctly is purely a typo. On the downside, the trouble with reading some of an author’s truly impressive works–in case you are wondering, Children of Time and Doors of Eden–is you just know when they aren’t really living up to their potential. Yes, I’m like that teacher in school who refuses to give the A to a perfectly acceptable paper because I know you can do better. Tchaikovsky can do better than this, so he gets an ambivalent C++ here, just like the programmers.

He draws a portrait of a city that seems to be divided between the desperately poor and the rich magical, and that’s about as fine-tuned as it got for me. But he keeps talking about the groups in those broad-brushed terms, rarely individual, so the city never comes alive for me. With even less physical detail than Robert Jackson Bennett’s Foundryside–a similarly book that suffered a similar disjointedness–Tchaikovsky relies mainly on asides and commentary to create this idea of division:

“He was religious in that particular way that meant he took a sanctimonious pride in the whippings he doled out for petty offences, such as being poor and not running away fast enough.”

“And with just enough starry-eyed awe, the gutter urchin confronted the magnificence of [redacted], because if the mighty craved one thing, it was validation, knowing in their heart of hearts that they were never so grand as they styled themselves; even when they were made of gold and gems.”

“because the woman had bought a map of the palace downstairs from some poor human who’d been a maidservant for the mage-lords before she’d grown too old for their eyes to find pleasing, and who’d then descended by misstep and misfortune to end up in the Barrio.”

I suppose really, it’s because it’s all tell. The worst part is that I feel like I’m missing out on being told all the really interesting stuff about the young narrator, Coppelia, and about the poppets, Teq and Arc. Their ideas of how to grow and protect their society are more than a little ominous (we all knew we should be scared of dolls, right?), and yet their ideas on gender and reproduction add a nice touch of humanity to them.

It’s a rather straightforward heist scenario. Although he manages his characteristic plot twist, I did not feel as amazed or surprised as in his other works.

Remember what I said about abilities? His writing is usually above average, but this felt a little too purplish for him. Perhaps he’s better suited to the more literal prose of sci-fi?

“The workshops of her mind were minting sincerity in unprecedented quantities, depressing the market for years to come with their adulterated coinage.”

Honestly, Tchai–get a better editor and some time to breathe between re-writes. Your work will be better for it.

It’s one continuous buddy read with my fabulous buddies, Nataliya and Stephen. 

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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3 Responses to Made Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky

  1. Stefan says:

    Ah, as a programmer I would have demanded the missing plus! (The language is called c++)

    Nonetheless, great review! I get what you mean with not living up to one’s standard. (Although – does every title have to be a masterwork?)

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