The Lost Machine

Author and artist: Richard A. Kirk

Type: Fiction, novella

Published: 2010

I read it: March 2016


I read the free online version of this book at Weird Fiction Review.

Here’s a nifty little tale set in a past/future of uncertain orientation. It starts in a crumbling jail with one Lumsden Moss able to walk out after his keepers have died, and he quickly bumps into Irridis, a super cool character with a masked face and little mirror fragments that orbit his head, which can be ordered to inflict vicious wounds and then be retracted like reusable bullets.

So there’s your “weird fiction” genre box checked.

The story expands a bit to include artificial intelligence, decaying cities, witchcraft (of a sort), and old feuds. Yet it remains mostly compact, focusing on Moss and Irridis traveling as an unlikely duo to retrace Moss’ past actions and their consequences. Along the way, he muses on cages of a less material type: “Life, he thought, is a series of nested prisons. Escape one, and emerge into another.”

Kirk’s story is supplemented by his own sketches. While appealing, I wish there were more of them. In the interview attached to this story, the author/artist offers an intriguing opinion about how art and text should work together:

Illustrations are an invitation to the reader to visualize, by providing a pause for the reader to reflect on the story. They are a part of the design that makes reading a physical book a visual pleasure. For this reason, the placement and style of illustrations in a book is very important. The art should flow with the story and not be a jarring interruption. … You can read the story without them, but their presence somehow opens up space around the narrative for the reader to occupy.

Kirk’s illustrations would work more effectively in a traditionally bound book, and it sounds like that very thing is on the way. He’s on track to publish a full novel which may feature characters from The Lost Machine, and I look forward to occupying that narrative and its opened spaces.


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