Review: The Mad Scientist’s Daughter

Quite simply, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke is a love story. There is a hitch, however. There is a boy and a girl, but one of them is an android. For Caterina Novak, this isn’t an issue until it is. In this vaguely dystopian future, artificial intelligences are blamed from everything to The Disaster to stealing jobs to just being damn creepy. Robotics has swung away from mimicking humanity and androids are rare. None are quite like Finn, however.

When Cat is five, her father brings home human-like robot named Finn. Cat thinks Finn is a ghost at first. He’s pale, like a shade, and not obviously alive, for all his human-like appearance. He has no smell and his movements and speech are slightly mechanical. In retrospect, the ghost analogy is really neat. It also makes perfect sense coming from the thoughts of a young child. I really enjoyed young Cat. A lot of her adventures evoked memories of my own childhood, except for the android part.

Finn becomes her tutor and then her friend. As Cat matures, he becomes more. Cat has difficulty defining that ‘more’. Her feelings for Finn seem like an aberration, in fact they are considered so by many of her peers. Though she would defend his right to be an autonomous being, she turns to him in times of need and counts him as her closest friend. She does not truly believe Finn feels the same way. It seemed obvious to me, as a reader, that he does feel the same way and that’s what makes this story so bittersweet and compelling.

I identified closely with Cat, particularly her apathy, which bordered on annoying. A main character is supposed to drive the action, right? Make the tough choices, be damned heroic. Most of us aren’t all that, however. We drift, victim of the tides. Cat allows life to carry her along and makes choices based on disinformation. She is detached and hopes engaging with other human beings will make her more normal. As the novel progresses, however, it only becomes more clear that she’s not.

While I often wanted to slap Cat, her apathetic nature felt very human, despite her struggles. I wondered if her detachment might be a conscious thing, if her close association with Finn had somehow programmed her to be different. Her dispassion echoes Finn’s, though their motivations differ. He feels he does not have the right to act. But when he does, decisively, it’s ironic. Finn, the second-class citizen, the one supposedly bound by programming, is the one to step away.

That was about the point where my heart actually tore in two. I’d sniffled a little earlier on and had tweeted my distress at Cassandra Clarke, who responded that she was sorry but not sorry. You know how it goes. I then read the rest of the book in one sitting, hoping for a happy ever after. Did I get one? You’ll have to read the book to find out. I will say The Mad Scientist’s Daughter wrecked me, emotionally, for the remainder of that day, but I’m the happy, sad, oh my God, I’m so tired sort of crier, so that’s not much of a hint, is it?

Oh and Ms. Clarke was not at all sympathetic to my plight when I was done. Typical author, I’d say, milking the tears of her readers. But a book that moves you is one you’ll remember and I’m not the only one who thinks so. The Mad Scientist’s Daughter has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick award. Well deserved, in my opinion.

Written for SFCrowsnest.

Review: Seven Forges

Seven Forges by James A. Moore

Overshadowed by the peaks of seven mountains called the Seven Forges, the Blasted Lands extend from the edge of the known Empire into the unknown; to the mountains, themselves, and beyond. No one knows what’s on the other side because, in living memory, no one has returned from the many expeditions dispatched across the barren wasteland.

Mercenary captain, Merros Dulver, plans to be the first. Charged by a sorcerer to map the Seven Forges, Merros leads his company, which includes three sisters who are the eyes, ears and voice of the sorcerer, across terrain rendered inhospitable by a long ago cataclysm. Great beasts of legend stir, threatening to end their two month journey, and a rider appears to save them. After communicating the fact he has apparently been waiting for Merros, he leads the company through the mountains and into the valley beyond.

The meeting of the two disparate races is one of coincidence and triumph, and seems to be an opportunity for two very different kingdoms to form an alliance. The cover of Seven Forges is tagged with the line “War is Coming”, however. So the reader knows in advance that something is going to go wrong, and it does. When the axe does fall, it hits the expected mark. But by the time the reader reaches that bloodied edge, expectations are skewed.

Mine were, anyway.

Continue reading “Review: Seven Forges”

Review & Giveaway: Three

Three Blog Tour BannerQuestion & chance to win below!

17162150

Three by Jay Posey

Three is a bounty hunter. He is well equipped for his chosen career—dark hood and attitude. He’s the typical loner, bristling with enough weaponry and broodery to discourage casual approach. A woman and boy approach him anyway and ask for his help. Even as he offers a substantial stack of local currency, Three seems to know money won’t solve the woman’s problems. So, against better judgment, he follows her and becomes immediately entangled in a plot that involves more than one woman and boy.

Dodging chemically enhanced predators, brain hackers and the zombie-like Weir, Three and the woman, Cass, and her son, Wren, cross a post-apocalyptic wasteland in search of shelter and answers. In order to protect her son, Cass is running from her old crew. Three questions his motives at every turn. The chase begins to wear away his edge and gruffness and the world he has trained himself to navigate is changing.

Three is more than just another novel of the apocalypse. It’s a tale of adventure and intrigue. It is unclear how long ago the collapse occurred, but it is very clear the world is not ours. Not our present, anyway. The remnant population is confined to armoured cities which are separated by Weir-infested wasteland. The Weir might be zombies; they’re mindless, hunt at night and have terrible claws, but they emit electronic screams and their eyes glow in the dark. The people of this world are permanently wired. They can ping satellites, read data flashed across their retinas and communicate with one another using only their minds. Many have genetic enhancements and chemical processors.

The story is fast-paced. I found it hard to put the novel aside. Still, the central characters are fully formed. Three is particularly compelling. He is obviously different. Questions surround his past and his actual purpose, a few of which are answered as events begin to dull those sharp edges. Cass is heart-breakingly human, in her faults and her need to protect her son. The villains vary. Some are just nasty, some have a secret heart.

Three is an impressive debut. The plot and setting are different enough to stand out from the post-apocalyptic and dystopian crowd, while still appealing to the same readers. I look forward to reading the more ‘Legends of the Dustwalker’.

Read a sample chapter here and then enter the giveaway. (continue reading for instructions)

Continue reading “Review & Giveaway: Three”