Customer Review

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A foil to Automatic Lover, 30 Dec 2009
This review is from: He, She and it (Mass Market Paperback)
When a second person told me that my more recent book, Automatic Lover, was 'like' this one, I decided I needed to check it out. There are certainly similarities: both involve intimate relationships between women and machines; many of the same detail points are made about these relationships. But these details fall into the 'blindingly obvious' category, and I am sure any author handling the same subject matter would have come up with them.

The differences are an order of magnitude greater. Piercy's book is a retelling of the Frankenstein story in not one but two different forms: one in the future and one in the past. Perhaps the intention is to convey the message that the moral injunction against creating artificial life in human form extends across all time. Mine is an exploration of the potential and pitfalls of humanoid artificial intelligence, inspired and informed by my association with the contemporary AI community: it presumes that as the technology develops, industry will have to rise to the inevitable market demand for humanoid robots as companions, carers and sexual partners. The settings chosen by Piercy and myself, both from 'pulp SF', give a hint to this essential difference. Mine is the upbeat one of extra-terrestrial settlement; hers the dystopic one of a post-disaster Earth.

The female characters around whom both stories revolve are very different women. Piercy's Shira is a victim of circumstances, who gives in to the insistent desire of the machine; my Andrea is a strong woman, who takes the initiative to build the life she wants with the machine partner she seduces. Piercy's Malkah survives in a man's world by living like a man; my Wendy is strong and wise because she insists on putting her maternal responsilities above her career. Shira has a son, but she appears so self-absorbed that the mother-love she is supposed to feel for him is unconvincing. Wendy's maternal feelings and behaviours permeate her every perspective and action.

The central robots, too, are very different. (Piercy's is described as a 'cyborg' because he has 'some grown biological parts'.) Piercy's Yod is troubled by being the only one of his kind; my H values the fact that he was created identical to many other robots on the production line but made unique by his relationship with Andrea.

One incidental problem I have with Piercy's story is that it is set too close in the future. It is set in 2059, but Shira is 28 years old and returns to the town where she grew up to find it largely unchanged from her childhood. Even allowing for the fact that the book was written in 1990, I find it hard to believe that the social changes and construction projects implied could have taken place within that timescale.

I have given the book three stars because, as the author of its antithesis, I reserve the right not to like it. But it is most certainly not a bad book. If you like your SF dark and dystopic, then you will like it. If you prefer your SF upbeat and fun, you will prefer mine. If you are simply an afficionado of robot romances, read both and then enjoy your own compare-and-contrast exercise!
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 31 May 2011 14:38:32 BDT
Lyndyloo says:
This "review" seems to be a big plug for a book by an author I have never heard of. Marge Piercy on the other hand I have been a fan of for over twenty years. All her books are worth reading.
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