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Release Day Review: Project Ordell by Susanna Hays

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Book Info

Book Series
Project Ordell
About the Author
I'm an aspiring author who started writing stories before I even started Kindergarten. 

I started out in writing tiny ghost stories for my friends and then got into paranormal romance. I now write mostly M/M stories.

You can find free stories and writing prompts that I've done on my blog. Most of these are just me playing around with literary devices and practicing techniques, so feedback is more than welcomed. 

I love meeting new people and talking with others, so feel free to contact me through Goodreads or leaving a comment on my blog. 
Publication Date
February 05, 2016
Chapter 1

BLACKWICK WAS a small town where it seemed to only rain. When it wasn’t raining, it was damp and muggy. Still, the town had its charms; if you looked to gothic architecture for inspiration, Blackwick was a veritable gold mine, chock full of gloom. The tall buildings, each adorned in the finest grays or blacks (and nothing else) did little to help the town stand out against the sky, which itself seemed trapped in perpetual silver. It wasn’t a particularly nasty place, mind you—not if you enjoyed the rain.

Ordell did not enjoy the rain.

He crawled out of his small bed and walked over to the window. Another restless night, despite the fact that he should have recharged his energy. The drizzle of rain fell from the cloudy sky and collected alongside the windowsill outside. Mr. Lynch played his accordion down below while the children danced around him. Mrs. Briggs would come out soon after to hit him with her broom and tell him not to play that ruckus so late at night. The two would banter here and there, and then Mr. Lynch would go play his accordion elsewhere.

Then there was the elderly lady who sat in her rocking chair on her front porch and hummed to the music. No use talking to her—she wouldn’t answer, only give a small smile and continue rocking. She rocked from nine in the morning to ten at night. She’d go inside from time to time throughout the day, but she’d always come back—like a moth to a candle.

Rumor had it she waited outside for her son to come back from war. The war that had happened twenty years ago. The same war her son died in.

Of course, that was just a rumor. Perhaps she truly enjoyed watching the people go about their lives, like Ordell did. She also seemed to enjoy watching the children dance around while Mr. Lynch played his music and sang one of his whimsical songs.

The gas streetlamps lit up the dark cobblestone street and the soft wind rustled the hanging clothes that were no doubt still wet from the rain. A white shirt flew off the clothesline and down to the small puddle, which had formed near the shallow stairs that led toward the wealthier part of Blackwick.

The wind blew again, and the shirt rustled near one of the children dancing. The little boy grabbed it and wrapped it around his neck like a cape. He grabbed the little girl’s hand, and they continued to dance in a circle around Mr. Lynch, singing their own little tune.

Ordell wouldn’t change his room for the world. It was a cozy place in the attic above his father’s shop. Resting alongside the stairs going up to the wealthier part of Blackwick, Ordell saw everything.

Even the things the world didn’t want him to see.

He saw Mrs. Combs’s and Mr. Harrison’s illicit affair down near the grocery stand every Friday night at exactly six thirty in the evening—that was around the time Mr. Combs went down to the city to collect supplies for his store. Many of the others knew of the affair, but no one told Mr. Combs of it. Or, if they did, Mr. Combs shrugged it off and carried on with his business.

He saw how Mr. Galloway struggled with money and went through illegal means of obtaining a small profit. Usually he met with a mysterious stranger between Mr. Harrison’s house and the pub, where there was a tiny nook in which no one could find him easily. When the deed was done, he looked over his shoulder twice and then scurried off into the night.

He also watched how his father would mingle with clients who seemed to have other agendas on their mind.

It was something that concerned Ordell very much. Not for his own well-being, but for the well-being of his brothers and sisters, who were not sentient enough to take care of themselves. Who didn’t understand when they would be abused or taken advantage of.

It was Ordell’s responsibility to take care of them, to make sure no one could hurt them. Even his own father.

They were just going to a new home.

That was the only thing his father would tell him when he asked where his brothers and sisters were going.

Later on Ordell pressed the topic further, but his father shut him down each time. He knew what they were used for. Manual labor or jobs the humans didn’t want to do. At least that was what his father told him.

For the most part, he believed it, but there were times he felt there was more going on between his father and his clients.

“Don’t worry, Ordell,” his father would say, “they’re going to a loving home. They have more potential there than they do here.”

“Then why don’t I go with them? Why am I still here?”

His father would then place his large hand on Ordell’s shoulder and give one of his famous crinkled smiles. “Because you are too special to give up.”

It didn’t make much sense to him. His father created him at age twenty-one, which was the typical age for his other siblings. Sure, there were some as young as eighteen and some much older, but it was only when a client specified those requirements.

If he pressed further, his father would say that Ordell was too human. Octavio often joked that Ordell was more human than most humans, and he was beginning to believe it. Aside from the few kinks here and there that showed he was a machine, Ordell felt more connected to the humans than the automatons. He liked to mimic them and live his life like the other citizens. He would recharge in a bed rather than prop himself up against the wall like he used to. He would socialize and complain about being hungry when, in reality, he didn’t have an appetite. Ordell even shared his fears of aging, which was something that would not affect him.

It was just those tiny things that made him feel like he belonged in the community.

Ordell pressed his forehead against the windowsill and stared back out at the dark streets. Sometimes the clients would come this late at night when his father thought Ordell had gone to bed. He’d see the strangers walk up to the shop when the closed sign was up for the night. They did a strange knock, and his father would come down and open the door. Ordell would then press his ear to the door and see if he could hear the conversation going on in the shop below.

Usually all he could hear were grumbles and sometimes laughter.

Right then he saw the strange man who lately had been coming to the shop around this time. He was a tall and lanky man who seemed to have light-colored hair, but it was hard to tell with the streetlamps. His suit looked expensive, and Ordell didn’t miss the shiny gold pocket watch he carried.

Octavio Rutledge, finest automaton creator in Blackwick (and the only inventor left), was not exactly the type of man to mingle with the wealthy. As far as Ordell knew, his father didn’t have friends from the upper class. But for some reason, this man was different.

Just like all the other nights, the man first checked his pocket watch, then lifted his cane and knocked on the door three times. Three rapid times. Then he disappeared inside.

Once again Ordell pressed his ear to the door to see if he could hear any of the conversation. Just like all the other times, he only heard the grumbles and laughter.

Ordell could go down and introduce himself. He was allowed to talk to the humans during the daytime, so why couldn’t he talk to the customers who came by during the night? There wouldn’t be any harm in meeting one of his father’s friends, right?

This man wouldn’t know he was an automaton. Not many did.

Unlike his brothers and sisters, Ordell was very humanlike. He felt pain and pleasure. He felt sadness and fear. Understood right from wrong.

Physically he looked nothing like his father. Octavio had created him with fine copper-brown hair and smoky blue eyes. His complexion was fair and soft, whereas his father had a crooked nose and leathery skin from the heat of the shop.

He looked similar to his brothers, with their soft features and full lips. Same slender body and small frame. Yet many of the townspeople never guessed he was an automaton himself. They fully accepted him as Octavio’s son who had just showed up ten years ago… never aging. Never showing physical signs of fatigue or stress.

Ordell stretched and looked up at the small clock. His version of sleep was powering down after running for a few days. He’d been running for five days now without resting, and he could feel himself running slower than usual. Octavio warned Ordell that he shouldn’t push himself that many days, but Ordell couldn’t help it; someone needed to help keep the shop in order when Octavio slept. He contemplated again if he should go down and introduce himself. In the end cowardice won out over curiosity. It was a wasted effort to try to listen in on the conversation below, so Ordell walked back to his bed and pulled the covers over himself.
Ordell Rutledge lives in the small town of Blackwick where he helps in his father’s modest automaton shop. While he enjoys interacting with the few people who grace his father’s business, he feels isolated because he can’t relate to them. For ten years, life’s been quaint and peaceful, but Ordell has a secret: he is an automaton, sentient enough to pass as human.

Ordell’s life is upended when the person he trusts most betrays him. Heartbroken, he sets off for Linnesse, a city that accepts automatons as people and is booming with the latest technology. With another sentient automaton, Elias Griffith, at his side, they overcome obstacles and uncover the strange truth behind Ordell’s past. But sometimes the past is best left in the dark.

Editor reviews

1 reviews

Better as YA Fiction
Movie Potential - ★★★★☆
Ease of reading – very easy to read
Would I read it again – Possibly.


To be honest, I had high expectations of this story. As a Steampunk, I was immediately excited to read it. Add in that beautiful cover and I was itching to start.



The plot is very original and creative. I had a really strong sense of the Steampunk theme at the beginning and was in love with the detail of the world and the storytelling. The way this author writes is very captivating, at the start of the novel.

However, I have to admit that about 20-30% in, the story just begins to take off and it took an unusual turn. To me, this story is an eclectic mix of  the films iRobot and The Boxtrolls, with a healthy mix of the Mariah Mundi books. There were elements of all three: the baddie from The Boxtrolls; the Sentient Robots from iRobot, fighting for their freedom; even the Steampunk-ish world of Mariah Mundi.

The Steampunk element – for me – didn't work. Yes, it was strong at the beginning and the idea of the automatons really intrigued me, but this could easily have been a historical/alternative world romance, without the Steampunk element. Here's why: 

The “robots” didn't read like robots. They read like a human, with very few mentions of cogs, mechanics, metal or processes. They slept, to recharge; they could have sex, smell, taste, feel complex emotions, have a temper, had their own thoughts and opinions, could fight and have blood drawn. But, somehow, they were still a machine. This really confused me. I was basically reading about a human being, who I was expected to believe was a robot. And this is where one star disappeared. Had the Steampunk element actually been followed through on, with much more detail and strength, this story would have been a solid 5 for me.

Another issue I had was with the “adventure” of the story. I must have spent about 70% of the book thinking “something big is going to happen.” Nearly every chapter ended on a cliffhanger, where a tension set in and I expected some massive danger to lurk on the next page. But it was never as dangerous as I expected, never quite as exciting as the lead up suggested and they always got out of it pretty easily. The trouble nearly always resolved itself, the danger never actually putting any character in mortal peril and I guessed the ending.

That, really, should have knocked another star off. But I let it slide. I'm used to a lot of action in my books and the only Steampunk novels I've read, before this, were M/F fantasy novels and they were most definitely more solid in the action and Steampunk elements. I didn't remove a star for this books lack of that, because it's unfair to compare the two.

There are great things about this book. It began as very intriguing, original and clever. There were great moments of humour. Some really fun
adventures and a few zingy one liners.

It just couldn't maintain this throughout. There were dips and bumps along the way, where things grew a little stale and predictable. There were
a few things that didn't make sense. Ordell, our main character, was fascinated by a little girl and her sick father, desperate to help. Yet, we're never told if he actually did. Despite him being consumed with thoughts of them, in the run up to him actually learning how to help, that issue is never fully resolved or even implied. That felt wrong.

I didn't understand the significance of the 'revolution' since it led nowhere. I expected a massive community of sentient robots all fighting together against the oppressive humans, but it never happened. I expected some form of actual revolution action, which never happened. And, despite desperately trying to reach Linnesse through the whole book, they don't get there until the last few pages.

I think, if you remove the 'sex bots' idea and leave the robots as slaves, remove the nudity and the sex scenes, then this would be an awesome M/M romance, with a Steampunk element, for the YA market. And, truthfully, that's how I read it. It felt so much like a YA novel that it could have been an amazing 5 star, if the sex and sex bots weren't included. But, because they were, my expectations were higher. The adventure, the danger and such would have been spot on for a YA; nothing too gory or nerve-shattering, but just perfect for the YA market.



I loved the characters. Ordell is this feisty guy, in his twenties (apparently) who is funny, moody, stubborn and so much more. But I never really see him as a robot. He's too human. The fact that he can't taste food makes no difference to that. Elias, too, is a brilliant character. He's fun, whimsical, but also very protective of Ordell. I actually think I like him better than Ordell, though at times I would swing from one to the other. The supporting characters all have their place and even the villain has his redeeming qualities. But, as I said above, their personalities read perfectly for a YA novel. Not so much for an adult, 18+ novel, which is what this is supposed to be.

Ordell is supposed to be in real danger, throughout the whole book. Yet, he's stupid or naive or just stubborn enough to continue to wander off alone. He freaks out Elias, who is trying so hard to protect him. But he never really thinks about how he affects other people. There are even times when, despite both being sentient beings with real human emotions, neither have a clue what they're saying or doing. Their arguments really confused me, because I often couldn't understand why they were blowing up into shouting matches. Not that the matter was trivial. I literally couldn't understand what they were arguing about. It made no sense.

The villain, too, doesn't measure up. He starts out creepy and sleazy, but there are too many moments of a broken man trying to keep a brave face. I'm not sure why the author redeemed him in the end, but I saw it coming and it made the risk to Ordell so much less than it should have been. I was never, not in all the times he was captured or in danger, actually concerned for his safety. Physical, mental or otherwise.

Taking this book as it's presented – an 18+ Steampunk novel, with sex scenes – the characters don't pass muster. Yes, they're awesome, because of their adventures and fun attitude, and their fight against a baddie. But it's a YA novel at heart. The characters are immature and not broad enough for an adult novel. They are naive and childish sometimes, but also like moody teenagers at other times.

The romance is also a little weird. It made me uncomfortable, at the start, because they're both supposed to be robots. The whole mechanics and the “how does that work” aspect really confused me, until I read the actual sex scene. Then, it read more like two humans; with all the right bodily functions, reactions and no mention of 'rusting' or any hampering of their ability at all.



Honestly, I was a little disappointed. I felt a little flat after reading it. I didn't think about it for hours or days afterward and when I put it down, I wasn't in an urgent hurry to pick it back up again. I wanted to find out what happened, but not with the kind of excitement I'm used to, with a really great book.

If this had been marketed as a YA romance, it could easily have become a new favourite. The same with the author. They would have become an
instant buy, if this was just left as the genre the story demanded. Without the sex and sex bots, this story is perfect. It makes sense, the adventure and danger are just enough, but not too much. And the mechanics aren't quite so important, within the context of the romance.
As an 18+, adult novel, I needed more. This story was disappointing, because it needed fleshed out more, for an adult audience. The adventure and
danger are too predictable and not dangerous enough to ever cause real concern for the characters. The sex/romance element feels misplaced, because of the 'robot' issue and it's all just a bit...flat.

I genuinely enjoyed a lot of aspects of this story, but it just doesn't belong in the adult M/M world, in my opinion. The plot, characters and world
belong in the YA market, where it could comfortably be an excellent read.
#1 Reviewer 127 reviews
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