Book Review – Tin by Pádraig Kenny

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IMG_42355_star_rating_system_4_stars1 My Instagram is mostly made up of me following the prompts of certain photo challenges so I am encouraged to post a wrap-up at the end of every month. This is a chance to show people the great pile of books that you’ve managed to consume throughout the previous four weeks. The only problem is, my piles never end up being that impressive. I have every intention to read loads each month but, depending on how dejected work leaves me, I don’t always manage it. I love being a part of the Bookstagram community and, despite how little my friends understand the appeal, I enjoy taking photos each day. The only problem I find with the whole endeavour is the underlying competitive spirit. No matter how ridiculous, I always feel guilty when I see how much other people are achieving in their spare time. It’s a feeling that makes me want to give up on complicated books and just read easier/shorter things. Which is perhaps one of the reasons that I became so obsessed with my last read after I first heard about it. It came to my attention through an email from Waterstone’s where it had been named children’s book of the year. It looked and sounded so good that I stopped reading the wonderful Amiable With Big Teeth in order to get through it. Considering I’ve had Claude McKay’s newly discovered novel on my TBR for about a year now, it kind of feels wrong to be reading a book written for kids but, to be honest, I’ve not been this desperate to read anything for ages.

Tin is a novel that takes place in an alternative version of Earth in which mechanical beings are just run of the mill. However, thanks to an accident years earlier, there are a few rules that must always be followed. These mechanicals are only allowed to be built to the height specification of human children and they must not be given anything other than basic levels of artificial intelligence. Christopher is a “proper” boy who has ended up as a kind of apprentice/servant to an unlicensed engineer, Mr Absalom. His only friends are the four mechanicals who reside at Absalom’s workshop and a young girl who makes illegal artificial skin. Christopher loves his robotic friends as if they were human but there is always something of a divide between them. Until an accident reveals a long hidden secret that instantly changes everything. When Christopher discovers he isn’t the person he thought he was, will his friendships be able to survive such rocky territory?

When I first decided to read this book I expected it to be a twee little story about an orphaned boy and his little robot friends going on an adventure. What I actually got was something much deeper that goes into the finer details of what it means to be human. This feels like an incredibly grown-up book and it was an absolute joy to read. Writer Pádraig Kenny has not only come up with a fantastic concept for his story but he has fit it into a really well-built world. His whole new reality has its own, slightly recognisable, history and is full of luscious details. It is a steam punk wonderland that I wish I could have seen more of. He has also crammed it full of amazingly written characters who feel believably real despite the fact many of them are actually artificial. Each mechanical has their own distinct personality and add their own emotional slant to the narrative. It’s a pleasure getting to know these characters and it’s super difficult to not fall in love with each of them.

I admit that I wasn’t expecting a children’s book to have such a profound impact on me, a nearly 30-year-old woman, but there were moments when I was nearly in bits. The story delves deep into the heart of humanity and love and is not afraid to put its readers through the ringer. The narrative gets a little dark in places but is always so full of hope and love that it never becomes too much. It plays with the idea that science and advancement are great but that there is a massive responsibility to keep it under control for the good of humanity. Genius is all well and good but nobody should be trying to play God. It’s an incredibly mature and thoughtful book that I wish I’d read as a child. There are big ideas and big, gut-wrenching feelings inside these pages but there is also more than enough fun, laughter, and love to balance it out.

I was drawn to Tin thanks to its sensational premise and awesome cover (yes, I know you should never do it but what are you gonna do?). I stayed because of how well-crafted the story is. The pacing is brilliant and drives you forward. Not a single moment is wasted in unnecessary side-plots or over-the-top description. The plot never drags but it is slow enough to allow you to keep up with what is happening. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested and the dialogue is all very natural. This book really surprised me and I would definitely read as much as I could about these characters and this reality. If this experience has taught me nothing else it’s that maybe it’s time I start reading more children’s books and stop being so concerned with only reading “proper” literature? After all, Tin taught us all that “proper” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be anyway.

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