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30 June 2013 @ 06:52 pm
Book Review: The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke  
The tagline for this novel is: "A story about love, loss, and robots." And yes, the book is exactly what it says on the tin. And while I can't say it was a wonderful story, it was certainly intriguing for the most part.


The story takes place some time in the future after a Disaster which has left the Earth with climate issues and an emphasis on humans growing up to go into a science field. The daughter in question is Caterina Novak (Cat) who is 5 years old when the book starts and when she is introduced to her new at home tutor, Finn. From the start, Cat can tell something isn't quite normal about Finn and her child-mind decides that he's some sort of ghost. It's only a couple of years later, after Cat has formed an attachment to Finn that she finds out that he's an android. While androids during this time are now mostly commonplace, the very human-like Finn is something incredibly unique and one of a kind.

The book chronicles Cat growing up and slowly falling in love with Finn, despite her father warning her repeatedly that Finn is not capable of real emotion but only what he's been programmed to do. But as the story continues on, the reader starts to question more and more just what exactly it is Finn is capable of and the nature of consciousness and having a soul.

I say this book is intriguing because there's a sheen of mystery throughout most of the novel of where Finn came from and what his purpose is. My wanting to know why Finn was built the way he was and how he ended up with the Novaks is what had me keep going with the story even as I started to lose some patience for the main characters.

God help me if this ever gets turned into a movie and Steven Moffat decides to direct it. The book has all the elements he tends to love: little girls who form attachments to creatures that are forever, the passage of time aging one but not the other, and let's not forget the obligatory beautiful female character who is deeply flawed and yet trumpeted as a perfect heroine. Okay, I'll be fairer to Clarke and her creation of Cat. The author is pretty blatant in showing us that Cat is at times a frustratingly selfish person. I almost appreciated this about her considering we spend so much time in her head as she goes back and forth in trying to overcome her feelings for Finn. But somewhere about two thirds in, I got sick of the whole thing. I felt like I had learned all there was to learn about why and how Cat was obsessed with Finn and what I really wanted to know was Finn's feelings (if any) on the matter.

We get something of the latter in the last few pages but by that time it felt too little too late. Everything does get explained from Finn's origins to what he is capable of experiencing, as well as an interesting tweak on everyone's assumptions that Finn one day hoped to be more human. At its very last pages, the book brought up the interesting question of free will and consciousness as well as the issue of ownership. Cat's father treated Finn with nothing but kindness, almost like Finn was a son. But what does any of that mean in the context of him periodically "upgrading" Finn without the latter's permission? These are the more thorny issues that I would rather the book have spent some time on rather than devote so much of it to essentially Cat's love life which grew predictable and stale.

Despite my frustration with the book's direction as well as my fears of it ever getting into the hands of Steven Moffat, I felt like the story would actually do better as a film. As I read it, I had very specific actors in my head in all the roles and somehow imagining the book's events that way helped me through some of the more dull moments.
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Dusty: Dresden Files. Harry + Booksdustlines on July 1st, 2013 07:36 am (UTC)
God help me if this ever gets turned into a movie and Steven Moffat decides to direct it.

AUGH, NO. *convulses on the floor* I was watching some new!Who today, and now that I am more socially conscious of problematic media tropes, I am horrified by nearly every episode. Moffat seriously annoys me. He should not touch any cool, popular thing anymore.

That said, this book sounds interesting. This may be kinda obvious since the review is, after all, on your blog, but it only took me a paragraph of reading your review to think, yes! This is totally the kind of book 'Scrib would want to read! Shame it ended up focusing more on love stories of a flat nature than thorny issues of free will and morality, but it has an interesting premise, all the same.

I feel like I would like Finn. :p
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on July 1st, 2013 02:39 pm (UTC)
I think you would like Finn as well. At least based on what we saw of him. He seemed to only get a real personality toward the end. Or maybe that was just me desperate for a character other than Cat.

I really wanted more scenes between Finn and Cat's dad as that relationship in many ways was much more complex. I liked how it really felt like Dr. Novak was probably the only one who truly tried to be selfless with regard to Finn but things didn't quite work out the way he imagined.