Sometime in the relatively near future, a very special android is created. Finn looks and acts human, though he has no desire to be. His now primary function is to tutor a young girl called Cat who finds herself falling in love with him…
It sounds like Bicentennial Man, does it not? I’ll be honest, I read it because it sounded like Bicentennial Man, and also because sj told me I should. And because of these links, I dove into this book with certain expectations. I knew what I wanted to see; I wanted the same growth of humanity I saw in Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man. I wanted the same focus on the possibilities of the future and the socio-political consequences of a country filled with robots. And I probably wanted a good tear-jerker too.
I knew what I thought I wanted.
The book didn’t deliver, and I’m so glad because it was fantastic. It was not Bicentennial Man, it wasn’t about the future, it was simply a story about life, love, and human relationships and it was ever so good. It’s one of those books that doesn’t fill in the gaps for you, but gives you just enough to let your mind form its own opinions about what the book portrays. Can Finn truly feel emotions the way a human does? Would that actually be possible in our own future? Who on earth would name their robot Finn? What kind of discrimination laws would be passed? Should they?
The most pivotal question of the story is: can a human fall in love with a machine? The debate is made less complicated given that Finn looks like a person and apparently can feel, but even stripped down to its essentials it makes for interesting thinking. You can really sympathize with Cat’s struggle as well as chastise her for being a complete bitch to Finn, screaming “YES!” at your Kindle when Finn finally puts her in her place.
“No, you can’t. They just…You’ll be like a slave. They’re just using you-“
He jerked his hand away from her. Cat stopped. She’d never seen so violent a movement from him.
“Yes, I already know what that’s like.”
“What you you mean?” Cat stared at him, “Daddy never-“
“I am not,” said Finn, “talking about your father.”
And then you realize just how odd the concept of using a machine in the wrong way is. It goes beyond the whole “the neck massager is actually a vibrator but nobody cares” hilarity and into “you are emotionally abusing your android” territory. How are we, in 2014, supposed to entirely wrap our heads around that concept? The closest thing we have to that is Siri…
But at the end of the day the book is about relationships, loving and otherwise. The introduction of a robotic love interest introduces a new twist on the way you percieve it and it’s done in a fantastic way. We also get family relationships, friends, Cat’s abusive relationship with her husband and the epic way she walks out on him – I seriously could have high-fived my Kindle at that point.
The writing style is one of my favourite kinds: simplistic but effective. At times it came down slightly too much on the “tell” side of the “show-don’t-tell” debate, but it was a rare instance where “tell” was done well. The characters were well written and I loved them all; Cat probably makes my favourite heroines list and The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is the very first book on my Top Reads of 2014 List. I should probably take the time to thank sj again for the recommendation (–so much love, girl).
Read it, enjoy it, think about it. Then get your friends to read it and start an in-depth Facebook discussion about the true meaning of consciousness. And let me know if you high-fived your Kindle at any point…