A moment of full disclosure – I’m friends with Emma Larkins so my opinions on her debut sci-fi novel Mechalarum are slightly biased. That is why I decided a full review of Mechalarum would not be the best route as far as ruminating on it for my blog. It would be a damn-near Herculean effort in staying objective and telling you whether it’s a good book or greatest book. So, what I decided was doing what I do best and look at in a certain academic tone. There’s two in particular: the feminist undertones inherent in the novel.
What is really interesting in contemporary literature is in how YA books have pushed the female protagonist. YA fiction is female-heavy, which is an interesting turn on fiction in general given their popularity and how that shows the cultural shift in feminism in general. the interesting part of how that plays in Mechalarum is that a significant portion the time Kiellen the protagonist is badgered by others about a supposed romantic link between Gage, her friend and science-mechanic sidekick. The roughnecks of the lands outside the comfortable citadel assume that connection exists, just as many would in many real-life partnerships, but it is denied.
Kiellen tilted her head to glare up at Jey. “I’m not his ‘girlie.’ You keep saying that. I’m no one’s, save my own.”
The way it is written denotes a hangup all too familiar in real-world creative ventures, whether it be technology, music, or other fields. This is reminiscent of the type of rumors that are very common between a female musician and the male producer working on her songs, or how some men put down women in STEM by saying their worth is undervalued because of personal relationships with men. Larkins’ characterization of Gage does not infer that connection immediately but what is important is this question is this: is that truly important in the scope of the book? Sure, he takes many risks for Kiellen’s safety, but it comes from the standpoint of friendship for most of the story. When an intimacy – albeit a small one – forms between the two, it comes from the necessary position of Kiellen taking charge of the moment. That is pretty important for readers looking at a female character, seeing her take the first step instead of waiting for the guy to make the move. Overall it is interesting in seeing Larkins’ change of a male character like Gage to a dutiful, almost subservient role that is so routinely delegated to a female.
In the future I’ll think some more about the actual Mechalarum suit. There are things to it reminiscent of other suits in media, but for that post I think I’ll have to let it marinate in my head a bit more.