“Cat, this is Finn. He’s going to be your tutor.”
Finn looks and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task now is to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion… and more.
But when the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world.
I didn’t like this book, yet I read every single word from cover to cover. Why did I do this if I didn’t like it? Honestly I have no idea. I tried to put it down, but every time I tried it would burn and itch at me from the back of mind. It was as if the story infected me, got in my head and rattled around tearing up the place until I threw my hands in the air and gave it what it wanted.
At first blush, it makes sense that I’d like this book. A coming of age story in the far distant future where robots are about to take on all the trappings of full human hood? Yes, please. I expected a mishmash of I, Robot and Chester 5000 XYV. What I got was more like Twilight, but with a robot instead of a sparkly emo-kid. Don’t get me wrong, this book is much more well-written than that one, but our main character is about the same: vain, selfish and shallow.
I appreciate that lots of teenagers are able to make the journey through vain, selfish, and shallow and grow to be a better person. The problem is: I don’t think Cat every really grew into anything. I empathized with her a lot as a lonely kid to distant parents who never took the time to really know her. I even had sympathy for the reckless teenager. What I disliked was the selfish young woman who grew into a careless, deceitful woman. She spends her whole life lying: to her parents, her tutor, her friends, her eventual husband — and, worst of all, to herself.
Maybe it’s my fault for reading this book with a mind toward the past. I thought of things like segregation and voting rights for women and minorities (especially minorities). I heard echoes while reading of white plantation owner’s daughters having illicit affairs with slaves. (Spoiler alert: those affairs very rarely ended well for the slaves.) Could the slave ever really say no, without suffering consequences? Does Finn, by the end of the book, really love Cat or is it just that this connection was foisted on him somehow by his programming and circumstance?
I suppose that’s a bit like asking if the people in our lives *really* love us by design, or if they love us merely because we were convenient in the moment when they needed to fall in love. It’s an interesting conundrum – certainly something to think about. I think this question is really what kept me coming back to the book. It seems intolerably cruel to me that the first robot capable of love is doomed to love someone so completely – in my eyes at least – unlovable.
I have to give the author props for realistic characters and a well-thought-out political progression. The world, what we get to see of it, was fascinating. I wish we would’ve seen a lot more of it, but Cat doesn’t spend much time thinking about anything but herself, unfortunately. The writing itself got into my brain like an infection and I couldn’t get the voice out of my head. Obviously, this author has a lot of skill. It’s too bad that ultimately, skill doesn’t win out over an unlikable protagonist.
This is not a book to be read strictly for entertainment, but could – and I say this grudgingly, but it is true – be read for the expansion of the mind. If I could rate this separately, I would give it four stars for skill and two for ability to entertain. So I will rate it a three and be done with it.