Review: ‘How to Repair a Mechanical Heart’ by J.C Lillis

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“How to repair a mechanical heart” is a well written snapshot of what I see, as the distinctly American experience of fan conventions. It is goofy, laugh out loud funny in parts, and romantically adorable in others.

Primarily the story is of two super-fan’s and their search for answers to many questions- about the show they both love, and what the two gay young men actually mean to each other.

There were many other story threads entwined- fandom, fanfic, internet fan forum’s, convention’s -with their ridiculous merchandising and Q & A’s with the ‘stars’. It was cute, but maybe I am just too jaded and cynical to fall for it all.

I have liked…loved many books, TV shows and Movies, but never to the extent that I would trek around America, hang on the word of actors/writers and feel the need to consume ALL THE THINGS that have the book/show/movie logo. Yes, the UK has the occasional convention, but as fans, the British have, traditionally been a *little* more subdued in their worship. Which is why I was a little uneasy with a few things in this story.

The character of Brandon was one of them. This young man is 18, and has been bought up in a devoutly religious family. He appears to not have an original thought in his head- a head so full of other peoples diatribe-that being Father Mike, from his church, his parents, and the characters from ’Castaway Planet’, the show Brandon is a super fan of. His faith is given to an unseen god, or a plastic action figure of his favourite Sci –Fi character.

I was bought up in an Irish Roman Catholic family. My mother was, back in the 70’s, devout and unquestioning. I knew when I was 9 years old that I did not believe in her church. I started to ask difficult questions, that she could not answer.I was sent to Bible classes on a Saturday afternoon, which, to my disgust, meant I missed the weekly episode of my favourite show ‘Wonder Woman’. But still I questioned. My lack of belief and continual search for explanations were a cause of countless arguments as I grew, and even though I am all grown up and my mum doesn’t attend church these days- it is still a loaded subject.

The reason I explained this, is because I cannot believe that Brandon was such an automaton, blindly being indoctrinated, not doubting or questioning, and living in fear of not only his sexuality, but failing in the eyes of his family, church, and community for being gay. It is such a lot of pressure to put on a person, and at 18 he had just begun to have doubts and start to question his own beliefs. I really felt mad for Brandon, and was uneasy with the interference of the creepy Father Mike, and lack of understanding from his parents, who did nothing but hinder Brandon’s search for individuality and identity.

To counter the darker, troubled character of Brandon, we had Able, his best buddy and fellow super-fan. He was campy, adorable, and I liked the fact that even though he had been burned by love before, he got over it and moved on. He learned from the experience and grew.

Bec was a nice side character- the female support system and fake stand in girlfriend and voice of reason.

Overall this was a really sweet, funny read. Maybe I could not relate to the obsession of those on the ‘Con’ circuit, but this story will be especially pertinent and entertaining to those who do enjoy fandom and fanfic. Recommended.

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