I have been tearing through some books lately, y’all. I’m behind on all my favorite blogs and TV shows but it feels amazing to be immersing myself in one world after another through literature. Reading was my favorite pastime through childhood and adolescence but all the reading required for my English degree kind of took the fun out of it, then I was really busy through grad school and my first few years as a social worker and then I started a blog and had a baby and only now, ten years later, am I finally diving back into books with the kind of enthusiasm I once had.
I’ve had The Mad Scientist’s Daughter on my list for a while now and decided to download it to my Kindle for our beach trip. I quickly became obsessed and picked it up every chance I got. I’m actually re-reading it now that I know more about Finn’s background and how the story ends.
A robot love story could easily stray into silly or tacky territory, but this is more like Her than Mannequin and I found myself rather enthralled. The gist of it is that Cat’s father, a robotics expert, brings home a startlingly lifelike android to live with them. Finn is the first and only of his kind and the circumstances surrounding his creation are unclear through much of the book. We spend what feels like a lifetime with him as Cat grows from a young child into an adult. The story takes place in the not-so-distant future, but despite the dystopian setting and element of robots I wouldn’t call it sci-fi. The outside world is background to what is really a study of Cat’s very flawed character and the affection she feels for Finn. It raises questions about whether self-determination is a right or a privilege, the future of feminism, and civil rights in the age of artificial intelligence, in addition to themes of metamorphosis, mortality, modernity vs. decay, and nature vs. sterility. The challenges of Cat and Finn’s relationship could even be compared to those of same-sex couples, especially prior to the changing attitudes of recent years.
What The Mad Scientist’s Daughter lacks in prose and a relatable protagonist it makes up for in Finn. As weird as a handsome android robot sounds I couldn’t help but be charmed by his thoughtful and unwavering nature. In fact, I wish the author had spent more time with him, especially near the end. I hope this book gets made into an awesome movie just so I can see his character fleshed out a little more. The juxtaposition of a human who is too much like a robot and a robot who is too much like a human was fascinating, and the issue of age difference reminds me of The Time Traveler’s Wife with a dash of Edward Scissorhands. Fair warning: there are some sexual scenes and quite a bit of profanity, so I wouldn’t suggest it for sharing with your pre-teen who’s recently taken an interest in robots. The next Twilight this is not. But if you’re into romance or character studies give it a gander.
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