Book Review: Paul Guinan & Anina Bennett, ‘Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel’

Book Review: Paul Guinan & Anina Bennett, ‘Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel’

NOTE: This review contains spoilers regarding the book’s content. Few have discussed the history of the world’s first robot soldier, known as Boilerplate, with the level of detail that Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett have achieved. Built in 1893, Boilerplate fought alongside the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Lawrence of Arabia, crossing the globe in […]

NOTE: This review contains spoilers regarding the book’s content.

Few have discussed the history of the world’s first robot soldier, known as Boilerplate, with the level of detail that Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett have achieved. Built in 1893, Boilerplate fought alongside the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Lawrence of Arabia, crossing the globe in a multitude of adventures that would make anyone jealous. The stories, photos and memorabilia relating to Boilerplate collected within reveal a history of which few are even aware.

That is probably because Boilerplate is an entirely fictional creation.

The Eisner Award-nominated team of Guinan and Bennett have done an absolutely stunning job creating the world of Boilerplate, first detailed on their website and now in the book History’s Mechanical Marvel. Originally, the website was intended to be an online pitch for a graphic novel but it has grown into a life of its own far beyond that.

Simply put, Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel is a masterpiece of steampunk fiction from the robot’s creation in 1893 to his mysterious disappearance in 1918 during World War I. The stories are detailed and believable. Real photos of Teddy Roosevelt and much more have been intricately manipulated to include Boilerplate in this new imagining of history. Moreover, the memorabilia devised is even more brilliant with pages from comics, posters and toys appropriate to the era depicted and detailed in a chapter titled “Popular Depictions of Boilerplate.”

While some have fallen prey to the “hoax,” you still have to appreciate the imagination and effort required to effectively pull this off. There are times that the book almost feels legitimate and even the most cynical or informed individuals find themselves wondering if this could all be real. That alone makes it worth reading.