Sunday, November 10, 2013

Review: The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

"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 is now 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, and in Cat's heart.

Paperback, 391 pages
Published January 29th 2013 by Angry Robot
(info grabbed from GoodReads)
A note: THE MAD SCIENTIST'S DAUGHTER is an adult read and contains adult things.  If you don't like adult things (like smoking, divorce, and sex, just to name a few) in books ever, maybe skip this one.
I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I started reading THE MAD SCIENTIST'S DAUGHTER.  The story follows Cat from her childhood where she meets Finn, an android assigned as her tutor, and onward through her life as she has experiences with him.  The story, which I think is best described as a cross between FORREST GUMP and BICENTENNIAL MAN, focuses on Cat trying to grasp her feelings for her mechanical friend and the ethical and social issues surrounding it.  It proved to be a much deeper and mature novel than I was expecting, but it was a pleasant surprise.  Cassandra Clarke guides the reader through the turmoils of Cat's life with beautiful prose and great insight.
Even though the book seems lengthy and wordy at times, I could not stop reading.  Usually, if I feel that a book is dragged out, I'm done.  I can't keep reading and I don't.  But even though I felt the prose was lengthy and over elaborate on details at times, I had to keep reading.  I had to know what happened in Cat and Finn's world -- I felt deeply involved in the well developed lives of these fictional characters.  Cat is a wonderful character in that she is flawed, but those flaws make her feel real.  So real, I'm almost expecting her to show up at my high school reunion; we'll drink, have a laugh, talk about how our lives didn't go exactly the way we thought they would after high school and call it a night.  The depth to her person is impressive and something I don't see in books very often.  And then there's Finn, who can't exist (yet?) but is as full and whole as a character as an android with emotional issues should be. 
The only character issue I would note is that all the other character's in the book were not developed.  The story goes through almost thirty years of Cat's life, so her friends change throughout the story, as does the setting.  And like that setting, they seemed like a backdrop to everything else.  Some of these characters were plot devices, others were just there.  But in the span of real life, there are characters/people who are simply plot devices that keep our lives moving and others who are just there, so it seems appropriate in the story.  And on another thought, it could just have been that the author was trying to exagerate that distanced feeling Cat felt from other people.  Intentional or not, the side characters were scattered throughout, generic and unmemorable.
Overall, THE MAD SCIENTIST'S DAUGHTER is a beautiful book.  It's the type of read that will invade your thoughts when you're not reading it, so I suggest not picking it up until you have adequate time to read.  It wasn't one I personally could put down and come back to -- I was constantly wanting to read it through my day.  I highly recommend it to anyone who likes speculative science fiction and is looking for a deeper, more emotion packed read.
FINAL THOUGHT: 3.99 out of 5 sexy robot toadstools
This review is also posted on GoodReads

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