Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tin by Padraig Kenny

Tin is about heart and soul, friendship, and mechanical strength – it’s about the future of machines and the inheritance of human loyalty. It’s also funny, adventurous, and loving.  Barry Cunningham Chicken House books in The Bookseller.

I really enjoy books where the author asks the reader to do some work, some thinking.  A book where the pieces of the plot puzzle are slowly revealed.  Where, as a reader I keep forming and re-forming theories about the characters, time period, and in this case, the political scene.

Enter the world of Tin.  There are mechanicals and propers.  Propers are human.  Mechanicals are mostly robots made by engineers and most look like children.  Engineers need a licence to operate and create mechanicals and there are strict laws.  It is forbidden to :

"confer life and sentience upon any raw material which conforms to the standard agreed dimensions of an adult or 'proper' human being."
"it is strictly forbidden to confer life upon a mechanical using the principals of refined propulsion, otherwise known as 'ensoulment."

As the story opens Mr Absalom, who seems to be a shady character, is striding through the town with Christopher and Jack.  It is clear Jack is a mechanical. 

"Snow was falling from the night sky, and all the world was cold and hushed except for the regular metallic squeaking of Jack's joints."

Christopher is a mystery. He shows emotion, he seems to be working for Absalom but it is Jack, not Christopher, who sabotages Absalom's plans. Absalom has other mechanicals in his yard -

Round Rob - Rob's head was always coming loose and  "the trunk of his body was made from an old cooking pot (and he) ... could be hired out for proper children to roll him down hills at festivals and fetes."

Manda "Her grin was a crooked as ever, and the brown curls on her head didn't sit quite right. Her left eye was larger than the right and her right leg was shorter than the left ... "

Gripper  "the largest standing over eight feet tall with a barrel chest that tapered at the waist. He had tree-trunk wide legs and great clod-hopping feet. His huge arms were a muscled collage of wires and rivets and piping - they ended in gigantic clawed hands ... "

Estelle - a young girl - human -  skilled in the application of skin.

Together these disparate and kind creatures form a team.  Christopher is in danger and it will take all their ingenuity to save him.

You can read more of the plot here but I would wait until you finish reading Tin as it does contain some spoilers. You can hear the author speaking about the themes in his book in this brief video. Here is a great idea - Waterstones have collected images of window displays from their shops in this Pinterest board.  I highly recommend Tin for mature primary students and junior high.

There have been so many items in the media lately about Artificial Intelligence AI - Tin shows a possible beginning for the machines which are now part of our world along with the hope for kindness and the triumph of good over evil. Click on these links to read more about the current debate.

Each character is written tenderly, with exquisite details that are really immersive. The story sets out questions of war, morality and shows you how powerful friendship can be, with or without a human connection. Estellosaurus

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. John Millen Young Post City University of Hong Kong.

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