Jay Lake

Synopsis of Escapement

In his novel Mainspring, Lake created an enormous canvas for storytelling with his hundred mile high Equatorial Wall that holds up the great Gears of the Earth. Now in Escapement, he explores more of that territory.

Paolina Barthes is a young woman of remarkable intellectual ability - a genius on the level of Isaac Newton. But she has grown up in isolation, in a small village of shipwreck survivors, on the Wall in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. She knows little of the world, but she knows that England rules it, and must be the home of people who possess the learning that she so desperately wants. And so she sets off to make her way off the Wall, not knowing that she will bring her astounding, unschooled talent for sorcery to the attention of those deadly factions who would use or kill her for it.

Galactium's Review

Escapement takes place in 1902 on earth, but it's not the same earth we all know, but rather a world that is part of a giant clockwork. The world is literally held in place by a giant brass ring and the movements of the planets are governed by giant gears. I couldn't help but think the whole time that the characters were actually germs inhabiting a 19th centry solar system model on my desk.

The reader gets to experience this odd world through the eyes of three main characters: Paolina Barthes, a young genius trying to leave behind her culturally remote island,; Threadgill Angus al-Wazir, an English sailor; and Emily Childress a member of a secret order who gets abducted by the Chinese.

Reviews of Escapement


Lake engineers a fine tale of humans in search of liberation from the clockwork and customs that ensnare them and us as well. -- Paul Di Filippo,

If I had a Hugo nomination, this would be on it. -- JP, SFSignal