The Lost Machine – review

The Lost Machine
Written and Illustrated by Richard A. Kirk
Radiolaria Studios, 2010
Reviewed by Erzebet YellowBoy

The Lost Machine by Richard A. KirkRichard A. Kirk’s The Lost Machine is a delightful yet dark tale about a man named Lumsden Moss who first appears in a prison cell, waking from a nightmare. We never learn exactly why the door to his cell is open that day; all we know is that the prison has fallen into chaos. Moss makes his escape and begins his quest to right the wrongs that put him there. With the help of an unexpected companion, Moss journeys through a world full of witches, bandits and ghosts in search of a mechanical boy — the AI who committed the murders for which Moss was convicted. It is the tension between Moss and Irridis, the mysterious character waiting for Moss outside the prison gates, that drives this story which is, at its core, one of redemption.

This is a novella, a mere 106 pages, and of those pages, five of them are illustrated with delicately drawn black and white images that highlight the strange nature of this story. Almost steampunk, certainly fantasy, and with traces of science fiction, Kirk marries his text and his art perfectly. Richard A. Kirk is firstly an artist, having illustrated works by Clive Barker, Caitlin R. Kiernan, China Mievielle and more. I suggest visiting his website, where you can see some of his work for yourself. This will give you a sense of The Lost Machine‘s aesthetic (and the opportunity to purchase the book for yourself). I highly recommend adding this one to your collection.

“Delicate” is a good word to describe this story; though there is horror, it is touched upon in such as way as to not horrify. Bad things happen to good men, unjust things are said about the just, and wrongdoers get what’s coming to them. Moss is rather an anti-hero, and Irridis remains mostly unknown. Both of them will win your favor, as will the characters they encounter as they follow the clues that lead them to the sight of the murders. The story draws to an end with a most surprising twist and a wonderfully satisfying conclusion.

I was impressed by the quiet way in which The Lost Machine drew me in–I hadn’t intended to read it in one setting, but all too quickly I was turning the last page, and feeling bereft that there wasn’t more. Fortunately, while The Lost Machine is a standalone novella, it is also part of Kirk’s “Necessary Monster Cycle”. According to his website, the second installment, The Red Lamprey, will be coming out this year. I am very much looking forward to being carried off into his fascinating wold again.