Mechanica by Lance Balchin

cover image

Five Mile Press, 2016. ISBN 9781760401085
(Age: All) Highly recommended. Picture book for older readers, Technology, Machines, Environmental destruction, Extinction, Science fiction, Dystopia. Machines have taken over the role of animals in this dark view of our future, where the continued use of fossil fuels has caused the environment to collapse, species have become extinct and large areas of the world uninhabitable. Built to replace the work done by animals (for example, a mechanical bee was developed to propagate the crops) these interbred with drones built for surveillance purposes when the world descended into war. Their offspring are presented in this highly imaginative and compulsive picture book, set out like a scientific catalogue of a new species. What began as drones escaped into areas beyond human reach and meeting the mechanica, designed by man to replace the animals lost, their offspring become the most intricate and beautiful of creatures, darkly mechanical, steam punk in their design and absorbing in their detail.
Each verso page has the most imaginative of illustrations, depicting one of these mechanica. One I particularly like is on page 23: Interfectorem Apis (scientific name) or Killer Bee, and beneath is given information about where it is found, how it was developed and why it is called a killer bee. An example of its power is given and then facts about the mechanica: its weight, length, speed, power source, sensors and origin. Each fact adds to the knowledge of this bee, giving hints about why it was created in the first place and how dangerous it now can be. It is a formidable bee, and the illustration is staggeringly beautiful. Readers will be enthralled at the detail given, the mechanical elements of the creature and its possibilities. And this is only one of a dozen or so creatures, which aided by a useful index will be enjoyed by readers of all ages. An afterword tells how the person who complied this catalogue has found a real butterfly, so adding a note of optimism to this bleakly dystopian story.
Readers from a young age to adult will pour over these pages, looking at every detail of these creatures.
This powerful image of our future will resonate with many readers, stunned by the destruction of our global environment and concerned at the advance of war technology.
Fran Knight