Title: Building Beauty
Author: Rachel Eliason
Publication Date: September 29, 2012
Genres: Science Fiction, Romance, LGBTQ, Historical
Length: 33 pages
Source: I received a free copy from the author.
Rating: 3 Stars
In the waning days of World War One, Alejandro Faidosky is sent to serve the Tsar in a distant corner of the Russian Empire. In the industrial center of Chelyabinsk, deep in southern Siberia Alejandro discovers a factory producing “automatons”, clockwork robots. His job is to sculpt a robotic prostitute for the common soldier. “Of all the men in Mother Russia I must be the most ill equipped for this assignment” Alejandro moans to himself, but he must not let Major Dmitri know, and he must somehow build beauty.
Content Warning: Grief and prostitution.
Assumptions make the world go around.
Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that explored the difference between what certain characters thought the world should be like and how it actually was. Yes, I know I’m being vague there, but this is one of those themes that is best left for new readers to fully explore for themselves. There’s nothing like reaching the ending of a paragraph or scene and suddenly realizing what the protagonist was hinting at earlier or what the author might have been gently nudging the readers to think about with some well-placed comments about the world we live in. I enjoyed those moments and hope other readers will as well.
Alejandro was such an intelligent, cautious, and thoughtful person that I struggled to understand why he chose the unusual design he did for the robotic prostitute he was building. That decision did not fit in well with everything else I’d learned about him. It would have been understandable for him to privately dream about a robot that he found appealing, but openly revealing such information was an entirely different story for that era. I wish this had been explored in greater depth so that I could better understand why he took this risk and what he hoped to gain from it. There was so much more the author could have done with Alejandro in this regard.
This is something I’m saying as a reader who usually has a strong preference non-romantic speculative fiction, but the author blended together the fantasy and romance genres together in this tale perfectly. The storyline genuinely needed both of them, and I loved seeing how they strengthened each other and kept the characters moving along briskly to their destinies. It was my first time reading Ms. Eliason’s work, and her creative approach to how she mixed these genres together makes me want to read more from her as soon as possible.
Building Beauty was a romantic and inventive read.