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The Impossible Cube: A Novel of the Clockwork Empire by [Harper, Steven]
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The Impossible Cube: A Novel of the Clockwork Empire Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Length: 398 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Description


"A fascinating world of devices, conspiracies, and personalities."
-- SF Revu

About the Author

Steven Harper was born in Saginaw, Michigan, but he moved around a lot and has lived in Wisconsin, Germany, and (briefly) Ukraine. Currently he lives with three sons near Ann Arbor, Michigan. Mr. Harper teaches high school English in southeast Michigan. His students think he's hysterical, which isn't the same as thinking he's hilarious. When not writing, he plays the folk harp, dabbles in oral storytelling, and spends more time on-line than is probably good for him.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1017 KB
  • Print Length: 398 pages
  • Publisher: Roc (1 May 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0074VTHBG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #698,118 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Impossible Cube blew me away! It was even better than the explosive Doomsday Vault.

There are only few steampunk series so far that really impressed me, and Clockwork Empire is one of them. Non-stop crazy adventures, complex and extremely entertaining world-building, fantastic team of main and secondary characters, and gadgets, gadgets, gadgets...

In book one Gavin and Alice release cure for the clockwork plague in London, but it doesn't help Gavin whose illness progresses with a much faster pace than normal because of Alice's aunt experimentation on him. Young man experiences more and more episodes of clockworker brilliance when his mind races at an inhuman speed inventing dangerous and brilliant constructions. While he is in his fugue as they call it, he is nasty, unreasonable and very aggressive. When he comes back to himself he doesn't remember what he said or done and how much time he lost, how much he might have hurt Alice...

Alice carries her own cross or shall I say, mechanical spider, which attached itself to her hand in London and now transforms her blood which she sprays at clockwork zombies as a cure. She is undernourished, weak, suffers from constant blood loss and heartache, because she can't help everyone.

Alice, Gavin and their motley crew are on the run from lieutenant Phipps after destroying Doomsday Vault and all the chances of British Empire to win against China. Their goal is to get to China and seek one of their dragonmen (clockworkers) to try and cure dying Gavin. But Phipps is so close that the fugitives decide to hide in a travelling circus on the way to extremely unstable Ukraine ruled by clockworkers and their war machines.

So there is this crazy chase, Ukrainian villains, possible time warp and the destruction of the universe... No pressure and all in good fun, of course! Powerful insane imagery and wild adventure, grab and read it, don't miss this little gem!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this almost immediately after the first in the series, thoroughly enjoyed both books and I'm looking forward to the next installment.
Well defined characters that I care about, in a world of unusual situations, what's not to like.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x98747ba0) out of 5 stars 18 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9691ab10) out of 5 stars Such a let down from the first book 24 July 2012
By Lou Wainwright - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't like overusing the word, so I'm afraid that I will have to limit my use of 'disappointment' to this first sentence only. But it is the right word I'm afraid. I quite liked the first book in the series, The Doomsday Vault. It was a solid 4-star book, and on its strength I pre-ordered this one. That turned out to be a mistake. Most of what I liked vanished, and was instead replaced by a highly repetitive story that neither advanced the characters, the world-building, or the overarching plot. There are some minor spoilers below, but nothing too critical.

The foolishness started at the beginning, where we are started in medias res with one of our heroes captured, separated from the team, in a seemingly impossible situation. The problems in the story are well illustrated by this scene as, to begin with, it was not that interesting, since there are no rules that constrain the abilities of either the heroes or villains. As such there was little tension, as they were obviously going to escape. The lack of rules means that each such scene would simply escalate the power level of the new constructs, while always providing a new gadget to the heroes of sufficient power to allow an escape in the nick of time.

Second, there was never a rational explanation for why the team was taking the risks that lead to being captured. Again and again, the characters would walk into traps, with no thought in advance to escape or contingency plans. I believe this happened fully four times. And on at least one occasion the hero's brought a irreplaceable item with them on a dangerous mission, even though it could easily have been split up into multiple parts to reduce the risk of a catastrophic loss. Instead, what should have been their most important possession was lost.

Third, the delays felt artificial. The book is supposed to be about the travel from London to China, and there are all sorts of problems. But many of them are based on money, fuel or disguise. The team includes two super-geniuses who can invent impossible machines, and do, at a whim, yet the can't invent something as useful as a high thrust engine? Or heck, a high speed motor and propeller? This is a world with battlemechs!

Finally, the characters do not change. Oh, except for the one that dies. He was written so one-dimensionally and unsympathetically, that it was no surprise when he died, except that his characterization in the previous book was so inconsistent with this one, I kept waiting for an explanation. I didn't get one. As for the two protagonists, there was no growth that I could see. And the villains, well the villains made no sense at all. In particular, the man antagonist is given a motivation which boils down to, "I have to keep to my sense of duty or my dad will be mad at me." So even though, time and time again, people point out how stupid it is to be chasing these people given that they are on a mission that will not only save lives, but actually help the nation she is supposed to be defending, she won't consider it. Even worse, the author continues to foreshadow that eventually she'll change positions anyway, making it maddening to have to sit there and read her tortured rationalizations.

When I think back to how much story there was in the first book, and how little there was in this one, I'm amazed it was the same writer. This is one of the biggest drop-offs between a first and second book in a series that I can recall, large enough that I decided to give the books away and not give #3 a chance. I just don't see how the series could recover.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x968c3414) out of 5 stars Perfect for newcomers to the Steampunk genre 1 May 2012
By A Book Obsession.. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Releasing the cure for the clockwork plague was only the beginning despite all the sacrifices made to achieve that goal. Now Alice and Gavin must do everything they can to help it spread as quick as possible to ensure China does not get the upper hand in their quest to dominate the world. Meanwhile, members of the Ward want vengeance for their theft of the cure, and will relentlessly pursue them to the ends of the earth. But incrimination and world domination are the least of their concerns as Gavin contracted the only type of the plague that cannot be cured. He is a clockworker capable of incredible moments of intriguing and invention, but that comes at a cost as he is quickly burning through his brain and soon nothing will be left. It's a race against time to find a cure, and the clock is quickly running out for these two love birds.

One of the biggest reasons I typically have issues with steampunk novels is because of all the complex descriptions and devices that are involved. A lot of the time it just takes too much work to follow the story, and quite frankly it just is a little too sci-fi in the past for my tastes. Well, at least that has been my experience with the genre, albeit limited, so far. However, The Doomsday Vault was incredibly impressive in that the story or descriptions were never once hard to follow. That's not to say that the story wasn't an "authentic" steampunk with the requisite impressively complex gadgets. It's just that Steven Harper seemed to have this magical way of taking this crazy awesome complex idea and describing it in a way that anyone could follow it. In fact, he has painted the steampunk genre in a whole new light for me, to the point where I think I might start taking a second look at other books. Who knows, perhaps The Clockwork Empire series will turn out to be the "gateway books" that opens up my book genre preferences even further.

I've always wondered why a lot of TV shows will have a recap at the beginning of the show, yet books don't. I mean come on, the gap between TV episodes is usually only about a week, where books can be a year or more. So, whenever, I am about to start a book in a series, I try to go back and read the last chapter or two of the previous installment to help myself remember what happened previously. (Which can be difficult if the book was originally borrowed from the library.) This just helps me to get into the book much faster. Otherwise, I spend the first two chapters trying to remember who was who, which makes it take so much longer to get engrossed in the book. However, due to The Impossible Cube's awesomeness, I didn't have to follow this usual routine. Since it had the recap at the beginning, I was able to dive right in without the typical re-learning curve. It just really impressed me, and definitely made my reading experience much better as everything. Hopefully more books will start doing this to become the standard trend.

This series has really grabbed a hold of me to the point where I'm desperate to find out what happens next. The characters and their plight are so easy to become invested in, and I found myself rooting for them every step of the way. So I cannot recommend the books in The Clockwork Empire series, especially The Impossible Cube any higher. Whether you are a fan of Steampunk or not, these books promise to be an exhilarating roller coaster ride from start to finish that you won't want to miss!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x964f0ab0) out of 5 stars Steampunk goodness 4 May 2012
By mjgriffor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Once, Gavin Ennock sailed the skies on airships and enchanted listeners with his fiddle music. Now, the clockwork plague consumes his intellect, enabling him to conceive and construct scientific wonders--while driving him quite mad. Distressed by her beloved's unfortunate condition, Alice Michaels sought a cure rumored to be inside the Doomsday Vault--and brought the wrath of the British Empire down on them.

Declared enemies of the Crown, Alice and Gavin have little choice but to flee to China in search of a cure. Accompanying them is Dr. Clef, a mad genius driven to find the greatest and most destructive force the world has ever seen: The Impossible Cube.

I love reading steampunk and I love a good adventure. I'm really happy when the two manage to combine themselves into one great novel. The Impossible Cube is the second novel of the Clockwork Empire and is a fitting sequel to the great first book The Doomsday Vault. This series has become my favorite steampunk series. It is fast paced and chuck full of all the steampunk elements that you expect. Mad scientists, airships, mechanical cats, glass swords, a steam powered elephant and zombies. I think it is an excellent introduction to steampunk literature for any reader and one I recommend to people all the time.

What was really refreshing about this book was the fact it moved us from the usual steampunk locations (usually Victorian London or the old west) and moved us to place we usually don't get to see. The book climaxes in the Ukraine while the characters are making a mad dash to China.

Do yourself a favor and pick up this book today.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96701114) out of 5 stars Worth the wait 10 Aug. 2012
By Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
When I finished reading the first book in this series (The Doomsday Vault), I was already hot to have the sequel and nagged the author on his Book View Cafe blog to hurry up and write it, already! This is what happens when a writer creates a story finale that ties up some things and cleverly leaves others for the next book.

Well, I just finished the impossible Cube, and it was worth the wait. I loooooove steampunk and this novel delivers. At times it reminded me of Tim Powers' work in Anubis Gates, though perhaps without the metaphysics. There was adventure, romance, and the sense of a gradually unfolding bigger picture. What I especially love about the series is the way Steven has so carefully described and defined the nature of the clockwork plague that drives the plot. The very progression the disease takes--which the reader gets to watch in all its wonder and horror--creates a ticking time bomb that the characters are desperately working to defuse.

And then there are the characters. In our cynical age "virtue" has become a laughable concept, but Steven Harper's characters are virtuous and noble. In fact, I'd even call his male protagonist, Gavin, sweet. And I do not mean that mockingly or sappily. The cool thing, to me, is that that sweetness is a key facet of Gavin's manliness and heroism. And his female counterpart, the irrepressible Alice, is his equal in nobility. So thanks, good sir, for this marvelous antidote to anti-heroes.

The Impossible Cube is a grand adventure, but is it not a light read. Bad things happen to good people and there are terrible losses as well as unexpected gains. But this creates a problem for me. I had promised myself I would not nag Steven further about the series, and I'm pretty sure that's a promise I'm going to have to break. So, Mr. Harper, sir, get crackin' on that third book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x964fe210) out of 5 stars exciting steampunk alternate historical 1 May 2012
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
By 1857, the "clockwork plague" disease turned people into brainless zombies. A few of the inflicted become short-lived mechanical geniuses creating technological advances. England and China emerged from the calamity as superpowers, with both using clockwork geniuses to push their country to the top. However, in England a cure for the clockwork plague zombie syndrome was discovered but the government's top secret Third Ward rationalizes that deploying it to save lives will destroy the kingdom as China would still have its mechanical gurus. They try to hide the cure in The Doomsday Vault, but Lady Alice Michaels and Gavin Ennock steal the elixir and begin releasing it while agents of the now defunct Third Ward led by Lieutenant Susan Phipps chase them in France.

Phipps and her goons (Glenda Teasdale and Simon D'Arco) catch Gavin who has caught the plague thanks to Alice's late Aunt Edwinna. Alice, Click the Cat, Feng and Dr. Clef rescue Gavin. They flee to Luxembourg for supplies while on their way to China where they hope to find a cure for the clockwork mechanical genius syndrome before Gavin and Clef die. Using the new wireless communication technology invented by a clockwork genius, Phipps pursues the traitors.

The second Clockwork Empire steampunk alternate historical is an exciting adventure thriller that starts off with action and never slows down until a confrontation in the Ukraine. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy the escapades of the Bostonian and the lady as she is apt to rescue him even more than he does her. With a nod to Jules Verne's Five Week in a Balloon (though an African crossing), readers will appreciate Steven Harper's exhilarating trek across the European continent.

Harriet Klausner
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