RogerBW's Blog

The Mad Scientist's Daughter, Cassandra Rose Clarke 29 July 2016

2013 science fiction/romance. Finn is a robot who looks and acts human; he arrives in young Cat Novak's life as her tutor, and stays as the years pass.

There's a really fascinating story going on here, about prejudice against AIs turning into grudging legal recognition of their personhood, with a strong side note about the ethics of building machines that are just not conscious enough to qualify as people, and another one about ecological disaster averted. But we catch only glimpses of each, because the story is told entirely from Cat's viewpoint, and she's just not terribly interested.

The plot we actually get is a tragic and angst-ridden romance, and Cat just isn't terribly sympathetic; she eventually comes to realise that she isn't entirely perfect, but she's a user of people, barely less so by the end of the book than at the beginning. She's incurious, she goes with the flow rather than exert herself in the slightest, and she casually sabotages her life by failing to think about the consequences of what she's about to do. She does approximately two things that show any sign of independent thought during the entire book, which spans something like twenty-five years.

Mind you, this is apparently a world in which second-wave feminism never happened (even though abortifacients are available on demand). The only other female character is Cat's mother, and she's mostly there to be an obstruction; she's undeveloped, like all the characters except Cat really. Finn is at first entirely without feelings; everyone else in the book has rather less excuse for acting like robots with cosmetic personality overlays. Yeah, I'm glad that this is a story about a young girl growing up rather than a young boy, since we're already oversupplied with the latter sort of story and few of them say anything new, but that isn't enough to sustain my interest as things get slower and slower.

World-building seems to have been of secondary importance. To pick just one example, I'm quite happy that legal "papers" are signed electronically, and I can just barely accept that they might be sent by courier rather than Internet though nobody ever mentions why; but I can't bring myself to believe that the futuristic equivalent of a USB stick will be called a "hard drive".

I found this rather a grind and, in the end, not really worth the effort. It had nothing new to say about the AI rights that form one of the ribs of the plot, and with only minor changes could have been set in the 1850s-1860s in the southern USA with the white heroine falling in love with a black man.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

  1. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 01:46pm on 29 July 2016

    And yet for all that it is what it is, I much preferred this to Madeline Ashby's book that pretty much covers the same area. Perhaps it's the ending, though to be honest I had to skip to the ending of VN, which convinced me not to carry on.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 03:06pm on 29 July 2016

    Both of them are basically tales of allegory and don't really attempt to be any sort of hard SF, which is a thing that rubs me slightly wrong. I mean, sure, if you want to tell your fairy-tale about androids rather than ensorcelled knights, I'm not going to say you shouldn't, but if you're going to use words that have specific technical meanings it should, I think, be for more than mere window-dressing.

  3. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 09:16pm on 29 July 2016

    I agree, and if sold as such we could make an informed choice. Ah well, it just means I shall think twice about buying either author again.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1