Christopher is ‘Proper’: a real boy with soul. Since becoming an orphan, he works for an engineer who creates mechanicals. Then disaster strikes and an accident unveils a secret which changes Christopher’s life forever. Before long, Christopher is in danger and needs his mechanical family to save him.
The idea of mechanicals living in a human world is not a new one. You need only think of Asimov’s works of The Wizard of Oz to see this – there are many subtle references to Oz in Tin. More recently, books like Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart books have introduced the concept to a newer generation. It is also a topic that has always interested me. As a result, Tin was a book that I’d very much been looking forward to.
Early on, the narrative is split between Christopher’s ordeal and his friend’s mission to save him. This is where some of the mechanical characters come into their own. Each has their own quirky personality, which at some point is key to the story. It’s a bit like the Wizard of Oz in a way. All in all, it’s a straight forward adventure based around the theme of friendship. The mechanicals bring an added dimension and allow the reader to question what it is to be human after all.
For some reason, the book didn’t live up to my expectations. I finished the book a couple of weeks ago and have been mulling over this review since. On the surface everything is there: a unique cast of characters, an intriguing adventure, interesting use of language. In the end it boils down to two things. Firstly, I didn’t believe in some of the characters. Try as I might, I never felt that emotional attachment with Christopher. Neither did I with quite a few of his mechanical friends. Secondly, the world seemed undeveloped and left me with a niggling feeling.
The question I have asked myself for the last few days is whether these niggles are mine alone or would they stand out to children? The solution was to ask a child. Their opinion was that they liked some of the characters but that there were too many. On the other hand, unlike me they thought the whole setting was well-created. The telling comment was that Tin ‘wasn’t as good as Cogheart and Moonlocket’, but would probably appeal to boys who like adventures.
The test of time will be how other children react as more read it. It’s clear that this is a book that will work for children on different levels. Some will see it as a pure adventure; others will look deeper at the underlying themes. Without a doubt, there are children who will lap up this book, but I do feel it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
As for me, I’ve promised myself that I will read the book again in a few months. Perhaps I’ve looked at it with too critical an eye, or perhaps this wasn’t the book for me.
Age Recommendation: 10+
Publisher: Chicken House