This is a wonderfully eloquent series of stories around the whole idea of artificial life - or rather I should say 'mechanical' life, as what most interests Wood is the weird and uncanny things that happen when robots or androids take on the appearance of humankind. There are great tales of mad inventors and their brilliant inventions, like the 18th century excreting duck or Edison's doomed attempt to construct a talking doll, and there's a fascinating interview with one of the Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz. The connections made are both persuasive and unexpected, so for example the link with the early days of the cinema came as a pleasing surprise to me. It's the kind of book that helps explain our obsessions of the present moment (Japan, Blade Runner, Terminator), and at the same time makes the past seem stranger than one has ever imagined. I'd adored Gaby Wood's last book, THE SMALLEST OF ALL PERSONS MENTIONED IN THE RECORDS OF LITTLENESS, but it seems to me that this is even more suggestive, and even more beautifully crafted. I'm not surprised that the press reviews have been so positive.