By Pádraig Kenny
Published by Chicken House
ISBN 978 1 911077 65 7
When a debut novelist comes up with a book as original, exciting, and well-written as Irish writer Pádraig Kenny has done with Tin, you can’t help wondering where can things go from here? This science-fiction fantasy is a must-read for anyone who wants to be told a story that is totally new and absorbing. We are only in the first quarter of our reading year, but here is certainly one of 2018’s stand-out YA novels.
Tin is set in an alternative England in the 1930s. The period since the end of first world war in 1918 has seen the invention and rise of mechanicals, robot helpers who work alongside humans performing daily tasks and important factory work.
But the manufacture of mechanicals has had to be limited by law since an ambitious engineer suggested to the government that technology and mechanics could be used to fight a war. The whole of Europe is unstable and sending mechanicals into battle would change the face of war. But this is not why mechanicals were invented, and strict laws have now been put into place to control these artificial life forms.
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Only child-sized mechanicals can now be manufactured, and all adult mechanicals have been ordered to be destroyed. But where there are laws to control anything where vast sums of money are to be made, there are those who will break these laws.
Kenny takes the reader into this world with great imagination and wit, and makes it one hundred and one per cent believable. The novel opens with an engineer, Mr Absalom, making a desperate attempt to sell a robot boy to a couple grieving the death of their son. This opener is swift and dramatic, and it delivers a big punch. If only all novels opened with a wallop like this. We are obviously in the hands of a talented storyteller here.
Kenny focuses his plot around a group of child mechanicals and a human boy who has drifted into Mr Absalom’s orbit. Christopher can’t remember much about his life before he came to live with Mr Absalom, but he does remember his parents perishing in a fire. Or did they? How he came to live with Mr A is a total mystery. But his life isn’t bad. He has Jack, Round Rob, Gripper, and Manda as friends. They might be mechanicals, but they are his family.
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Tin’s author has excelled in his creation of the child robots. They have strong personalities; they are innocent and kind, and Kenny makes his readers care about them completely. When Christopher goes missing, the plot kicks in and his friends set off on a quest to find him.
This is where Tin comes into its own and rises above other YA quest novels. The glorious characters and the twisting and turning plot will have adults as well as teens on the edge of their seats. The pace of the story slowly gains momentum passing through exiting action and emotional conflict and delivering an ending that brings the story to a dramatic close.
It is tempting to hope that some movie studio is fighting to snap up film rights for this must-read YA novel, but would a movie spoil the book? Read Tin now before anyone else gets their hands on it. It is brilliant.