A robot love story about the daughter of an eccentric scientist. Maybe not my normal bag — or your average run-of-the-mill plot for a dystopian story, eh? — but . . . that’s what I liked about the premise. And Andi recommended it, so.
This book? Addictive. Weird. Surreal. A little risque, a little off-beat and even naughty. But deeply emotional and thought-provoking and sad, too . . . such a complicated mixture of emotions in a book about a being who feels none.
Or does he?
Finn is brought into the Novak home as an assistant and tutor for Cat, the young daughter of a successful scientist. Under his guidance she learns, explores and grows into a lovely but insecure young woman — one unsure of her place in her family and the wider world. Finn is handsome, articulate, thoughtful, loyal . . . because he was built that way. A one-of-a-kind being who looks and acts human, he still remains incapable of returning the love he knows Cat feels for him. Heartbroken and uncertain, Cat shies away from Finn and builds a safe life elsewhere . . . for a while. But as the changing world begins to examine the rights of and responsibilities toward robots, the staid life Cat has constructed for herself begins to unravel.
Cassandra Rose Clarke’s The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is one of those books I couldn’t wait to finish but didn’t want to end. At points I was ready to clobber Cat for her foolish selfishness; other times I wanted to wrap her up in a big hug and tell her everything would be okay, though I wasn’t sure it would be. The world was just so unkind, and often unkind to her. But she was so determined not to feel — to be as blank as Finn, as her father — that she allowed everything to happen to her.
Finn, on the other hand, was hard not to love. How could you not fall for charismatic, steadfast Finn? What we’re to believe is his inability to love or feel or hope never felt quite right; it was obvious that, regardless of what his makers may claim, he was more “human” than they’d want to believe. His back story was fascinating and disturbing, and I found his affection for the Novak family as a whole to be very moving. As life became more chaotic, his moves toward autonomy were impressive and sad.
And his love for Cat? Crazy. Nonsensical, maybe . . . but definitely there. The stolen moments the pair share were steamy and complicated, but they were also romantic. Much more romantic than I would have ever expected. And as we get to know Finn better, I couldn’t bear the thought of Cat hurting him.
But could Cat hurt him? Can you really “hurt” a robot?
A robot doesn’t have “feelings.” It doesn’t harbor grudges. It doesn’t feel betrayed, tired, burnt out, scared.
Can you fall in love with a robot? Is it perverse and strange to “love” someone who isn’t a someone at all?
It’s just such an interesting premise. One that hooked me from the start.
Set in a not-so-distant future, it was easy to imagine the America of Clarke’s description — and to consider how artificial intelligence will one day play a role in society. Though the outlook could seem bleak, there was still an undercurrent of hope and love to the novel. It was about family, loyalty, devotion. At her core and as the title suggests, Cat owns her identity as the daughter of a mad scientist — and lets her connection to Dr. Novak be the guiding force in her life.
Though I could get frustrated with Cat to the point of wanting to dramatically shut down my Kindle (the digital equivalent of slamming a book, you know), there was never a point at which I wasn’t dying to know what would become of the characters . . . and I was pleased — nay, delighted — with the ending.
It totally worked for me. And if you’re a fan of dystopian novels, offbeat love stories and/or science fiction without a ton of world-building (no serious societal descriptions here, though we do get glimpses of this broken Earth at times), The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is an engrossing, evocative and lovely read.
4.5 out of 5!