Clockwork Universe is the debut novel from John W. Dennehy. Kevin Barnes is a commuter, headed to Boston from the Merrimack Valley in Southern New Hampshire. On the weekends he performs in a throwback punk band and he looks the part, with a purple Mohawk, diaper pins in his ears, and jackboots with crimson laces.
Prior to boarding, a stranger asks Kevin to watch his briefcase for a moment. When the man doesn’t return, Kevin boards with the briefcase and begins a journey he won’t soon forget. Kevin is thrown into a time and place he barely recognizes, a Boston where the patriots lost the revolution and steam is the primary source of energy. Here he meets big game hunter Silas Cunningham and his companion, Niles Barton. The Englishmen have been tasked with capturing and destroying two dangerous animals which have become loose in the city.
“We are facing Rhino-pards,” Cunningham explained. “They are part rhino and part leopard. Some sort of vivisection done on the Ivory Coast. A mad French scientist shacked up in a village doing unusual experiments on animals.”
The trick with enjoying this work is not to ask too many questions. Questions like, how did a simple commute to Boston result in arriving in an alternate universe in a different timeline, and why was there a ray-gun in the stranger’s briefcase?
In the end, I found Clockwork Universe to be an entertaining story that could have been so much more. There is this wonderful world in which Kevin finds himself and yet, most of the story, as good as it is, is spent chasing Rhino-pards.