The Chronicles of a Mad Lab Assistant: Darke Pygmalion by Lynn McCrary takes place circa 1930 in a world of the Cthulhu Mythos as created by H.P. Lovecraft but steeped with Steampunk technology. The protagonist is Ed, a senior at Miskatonic University. His father owns an airship manufacturing company and expects Ed to follow him into the family business. However, Ed has dreams of building human-like automata. He raises money to live off campus by working in the local morgue where he often hangs out with his good friend, a lovelorn ghoul named Cedric. Ed decides to build a girlfriend for Cedric and succeeds. The only problem is that the automaton has a penchant for murder and Ed must find a way to stop her without destroying himself in the process. At 67-pages, this was a nice, quick read. Overall, I came away feeling like I spent some months in the twisted life of a Mikatonic University student.
The Chronicles of a Mad Lab Assistant was sent to me by its publisher-of-record Dorrance Publishing. Dorrance is a publishing services company that has been around for a while. A quick glance at their website suggests that they not only print your book, but offer some services such as line editing and publicity. My copy of the book came with a nice, professional-looking press release. Still, Dorrance is a publishing services company and not a publisher in its own right.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed about working with publishers is my interaction with editors. I suspect when most people think about editors, they think about people who do their best to catch all the spelling and grammar mistakes in a manuscript. In effect, this is line or copy-editing. That’s important and a good publisher will do that, but another aspect of editing is content editing and sometimes good content editing is just a matter of asking questions and then letting the author tackle those questions. Admittedly, it’s not always necessary to answer every question an editor might have, but it’s often good to address the questions and acknowledge that answers exists, even if the author or the point-of-view character doesn’t actually answer.
Overall, I found The Chronicles of a Mad Lab Assistant an enjoyable book, but I still read it with content editor’s brain and I did come away with a few questions. I wanted to better understand why Ed is friends with Cedric. It seemed clear that Cedric gets to hang out at the morgue for a few snacks while Ed is taking his turn as caretaker, but I wanted to know what Ed got out of this relationship. I also wanted to know more about what Ed actually gained from building the automaton, Millie. Was this an exercise for experience? Did he put it to use in his classes? What’s more, it was clear from the story that Ed wanted to go to graduate school after graduation to the chagrin of his father. That said, I never quite understood what Ed wanted to get out of his additional graduate school experience. It seemed like Ed had the opportunity to go to work for his father at the airship manufacturing company, but I didn’t really see what, specifically Ed wanted to do instead of that or in addition to that.
Admittedly, none of these questions were necessarily plot-critical, but I think they would have presented opportunities for the author to explore the characters and make a book I enjoyed even better. I could see some of these questions being answered in a sequel, but it would also be fun to see a second edition that expanded on some of the ideas raised in the first edition. If you would like to check out the book, it’s available at: https://www.amazon.com/Chronicles-Mad-Lab-Assistant-Pygmalion-ebook/dp/B0BQH2DR7R/