Review: Engines of Empathy by Paul Mannering

Reviewed by Ian

We meet Charlotte in the city powered by Empathy. Empathy has relegated electricity and petrochemicals to history just like the candle and steam. Empathy is now THE energy source that powers everything from household appliances to transport systems. It proves to be very efficient and reliable but does have the side effect that devices can develop personalities, like Charlotte’s toaster that works perfectly except if your toasting wholemeal bread.

Charlotte has a job on an IT help desk. Anyone, like me, who works in IT would love the part where Charlotte goes to work and takes a few calls.
This and her own car problems, and you realize the repair teams need to be part technical and part psychologist to do the job. (We thought we had problems with that annoying printer that always has a paper jam when you are in a hurry. Perhaps we should try giving the printer empathy too).

I also found it amusing that the IT company in the story worked from the oldest building in town with the most antiquated series 7 Empathy Engine powering the building.

The unsung hero of this story is Charlotte’s antique writing desk that she inherited from her Great Grandmother. This desk is made from “Living Oak”. Living Oak has empathetic qualities. We know this this desk has a voice recording captured in the timber and a note hidden in it somewhere as well. With everyone after the desk the question is who is going to discover these secrets?

Will it be Charlotte or will it be the Godden Energy Corporation? The GEC has the monopoly on Emphatic Energy and no-one else know how they make it in such high qualities and quantities. Why does the GEC want the desk and what is it really up to?

Will the local Monastery run by the Arthurian faith help in any way? May Arthur save us all.

Will the local police help? (In this world they are the “lawn” and wear green uniforms. If you want to insult them you refer to them as “clippers”).

I will leave you to read the book to find out these answers and many more.

This is a well written and well paced story following Charlotte as she tries to say her desk. For me the one disappointment was that I found the twist at the end somewhat predictable.

Quotes on the cover compare this story to those written by Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. Whilst this story is definitely not the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy nor is it Discworld it does has the promise of developing into a universe worthy of keeping an eye on.


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