on 12 April 2015
I picked this up on a complete whim in Waterstone’s one day, based purely on the title, and I was so glad I did.
Cat is the daughter of two eminent scientists. She lives a pretty carefree existence, studying what she pleases and playing in the garden of her family’s isolated house, until one day her father brings home Finn, whom he introduces as Cat’s new tutor. Over time, she and Finn develop a bond, and eventually their friendship turns into love. The only problem is, Finn isn’t human. He’s the first and only one of a new breed of incredibly advanced robots.
The story spans thirty years, from when Cat is a young girl, through her adolescence and into womanhood. I don’t think a year is ever actually specified - artificial intelligence is common, the earth’s climate has changed and there is space exploration and colonisation - but the feel of the book is very current, in the way people speak and the things they do.
The writing in this book is beautiful and melancholy. I’m not really one to cry over books, but I did feel myself misting up on occasion and Cat and Finn’s story stayed with me for ages after I’d finished the book.
Cat is a flawed protagonist, and all the better for it. She is selfish and makes some really bad choices and she’s annoying as hell in some places, but you still find yourself cheering her on. And Finn... I kept having to remind myself: he’s a robot. But I think that’s the whole point of the book.
I guess really the author is asking us: at what point does something stop being a machine and start being a living entity? Is it with self-awareness? The ability to think and learn independently? The ability to love?
This book is so many things: romantic without being schmaltzy, sci-fi without being overly technical and philosophical without being inaccessible. I’d recommend it to anyone.
This review is also on my blog: www.bookblogbird.weebly.com
on 1 March 2013
(I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Angry Robot and Netgalley.)
Cat is 5 years old when she first meets Finn. He's an android, he doesn't eat, he doesn't sleep, and he helps her scientist father with his work. He also tutors Cat instead of her going to school, and he's her best friend in all the world. As she grows up, she comes to rely on him more than anyone, and misses him when she goes away to college.
Cat loves Finn, it's obvious, but as he is `incapable of love' she knows that nothing can ever become of her feelings, and she tries to keep them hidden. One day after the death of her mother however, her feelings escape, and she kisses Finn. Things escalate, and it seems that Finn is more human than she ever considered, and they have sex.
Cat and Finn can't really be together though, it's illegal and immoral, and so she goes back to her normal life. Certain events change things though, and suddenly Finn announces that he is leaving - he's a machine, not a man, and so he has sold himself to the highest bidder.
This book tells the tale of Cat's life, and her love for Finn, even though he is a `robot' rather than a man. Can Cat live without the love of her life though? And if robots are sentient, should they have rights?
This book was so rich and so emotional; it made me cry on more than one occasion. I really felt for Cat, who loved Finn but kept talking herself out of admitting it, all because she believed that he was incapable of love. She tried to hide her feelings even from herself at times which I found really sad.
I have to say that even with the story, when Cat and Finn actually had sex for the first time I found it weird. I know that they did have feelings for each other, but she's asks to have sex with him and he tells her he is capable of it, although obviously he doesn't get any feeling from it the way she does, and it's really weird how one-sided the sex was, like, well.... Having sex with a robot!
I liked Finn strangely enough. He was sweet to Cat, and he did seem to have sentience, and he did seem to have feelings for her, even when he told her that he was incapable of feelings. I also thought that the way he behaved when she was with someone else spoke volumes about how he felt, even if he couldn't put the feelings into words himself.
This story covers a large period of time, from when Cat first meets Finn when she is 5, to the end where she is in her 30's. Parts of the story I liked more than other parts, but the writing throughout was just so captivating, that I wanted to keep reading, even when I wasn't loving that part of the story.
The tagline for this book is `A tale of love, loss and robots', and I think that it fits the story really well. The story basically follows Cat's life from quite a young age, and her background and her love for Finn are a constant background noise within her life, so much so that no matter where she is, she never stops missing him. There is also a lot of loss in this book. I cried on more than one occasion, the story was just so sad in places, but it was so beautifully written that even the sad parts were heartbreakingly good. I actually find it really difficult to tell you how emotionally taxing this book was, and still I loved it, and I'm not going to forget this one in a long time.
Overall; a beautiful and heartbreaking tale of a girl and a robot.
8.5 out of 10.
on 4 February 2013
Last year I read - and loved - Cassandra Rose Clarke's debut YA novel, The Assassin's Curse. Having been struck by her writing and powerful voice, I was already looking forward to The Mad Scientist's Daughter based on that alone, but the cover reveal and the cover copy sealed the deal. Because look at that cover; it's completely glorious. And Clarke didn't disappoint with her first novel for adults. The Mad Scientist's Daughter is stunning. A gorgeous exploration of love, the ability to feel it and other emotions, and the lies we tell ourselves in order to attain happiness that probes the border between human and AI to see how far they stretch. Perhaps it has a little too much romance in it for those who think all SF should be hard, but for me it was a perfect blend.
While this is as much Finn's story as it is Cat's, the narrative is told strictly from Cat's perspective. We follow her from the time she's five years old and Finn is brought into her home to tutor her until she's about thirty-six. During all this time Finn is an integral part of her life, even once she moves away from home and even when they don't speak for years. Her voice is distinctive and Clarke isn't afraid to let her be unsympathetic. Cat is very human, with very human flaws, and we see her making choices which are unwise and say and do things that are unkind out of self-interest or ignorance. Despite this, I never lost my connection to the character, even when she strives to confirm to what she believes her late mother would have wanted for her and tries to lead a `normal' life and she takes some tremendously stupid decisions. Even if I was sitting there, going `no, no, no, don't do it' at her, Clarke so skilfully built her character that her decisions are plausible and I understood why she made them. She's also quite conflicted and damaged by her inability to deal with her mother's death. Despite this she's strong, stronger than she thinks and you can't help but root for her every step of the way.
Where Cat is all too human, Finn clearly isn't and he won't let us forget it. Every time Cat, and consequently the reader, starts to forget - dare we say even hope - that Finn isn't as human as he seems, he'll do or more often say something that reminds us he's an android. Yet from the first, Finn seems more than this; if there is something as the unreliable narrated character Finn is it. Cat often says she can't read Finn, due to his lack of emotion and facial expression, but from his words and his behaviour much can be distilled. The lies people tell themselves - and others - to be able to ignore an uncomfortable truth are large and Cat is an expert in telling them to herself. In fact at times I felt like reaching into the book and shaking her in hopes of getting her to wake up and see what was in front of her. Through Cat we also witness Finn's growth and his way to achieve his own agency, which was fascinating.
The Mad Scientist's Daughter is far more than a love story. Once Cat realises the truth about her feelings for Finn, she goes to find his origins and his history had just a hint of Frankenstein in it, which is subtle and yet not. If I hadn't just read a YA retelling of the book and a blog post on its conception and themes I wouldn't even have thought to make the connection. Finn's past contained a ton of grief, madness and questions about what constitutes life. This last question is further reflected in the ADL (Automata Defence League) which advocates for the emancipation of sentient robots and androids. The ADL is the embodiment of one of the main questions Clarke poses with this narrative: when does something attain enough humanity to be treated with equal rights? It is an age-old question when it comes to robotics and AI and Clarke handles it in an interesting way. For example, to counterweight Finn and his less-advanced brethren, Richard, Cat's husband works on creating sentient robots that don't possess consciousness to circumvent the laws that protect AI's. But people seem to like these less, exactly because they lack character. I really liked Clarke's treatment, but I would have liked more details on what laws the ADL managed to get passed and what rights the androids get to protect them from abuse. I'd say for me that was the one weak point in an otherwise amazing novel.
Reading The Mad Scientist's Daughter became a tug of war between wanting to devour the story as quickly as I could, because it was so good, and wanting to parse it out, because I didn't want it to end and leave Cat and Finn behind. And at no point did I cry... that was all dust in my eye. With this second book, Clarke has cemented her status as a must-read author. The Mad Scientist's Daughter is really something special and I look forward with anticipation to what Clarke produces next, because she is definitely a talent to watch closely and it's bound to be good. The Mad Scientist's Daughter will be available in the UK on February 7th and in US and the rest of the world on January 29th.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.
on 3 October 2013
as the title. REALLY STRUGGLED. girl meets robot. girl shags robot. Well thats it. But it just goes on and on and on. The theme has been done by many (many many many) SF authors- but far better.
I think people who want to write "literature" are creeping into SF. You are no good at it! Go away! Go and write novels in the 19th or 20th century. Stop polluting science fiction. We want galactic empires- we don't care how you feel.
This time 1 star was what it deserved.
on 23 January 2016
I cant actually remember what I imagined when I first read the blurb, but I know the book wasn't what I expected. It's like nothing I have ever read before. It's kind of a mix of AI, Bicentennial Man, I Robot with Finn coming across a little like Data from star Trek, told from the perspective of 5 year old Cat as she grows up.
The story is told over 3 parts. The first part reads like diary entries, sometimes with years between entries, and several entries being told in one chapter. At this point in the book I was mostly reading for the sake of reading, I didn't dislike it but it felt that nothing was really happening. Then I put the book down between chapters while i did some normal every day things around the house and I realised I was thinking about the story, thinking about Cat and Finn and how their relationship was developing. Wondering if Finn had any feelings for Cat, who i realised was falling in love with Finn even if she didn't realise it herself.
When Cat gets married its only because she wants to be normal, she knows she cant have Finn and she settles. When Finn refuses to see her now that she's married her heart breaks, and then it breaks some more when Finn decides he is going to work on the moon. I think my heart broke a little then too.
This is a completely unexpected love story. A story of two people who don't actually spend all that much time together but Cat is always thinking of Finn. The story doesn't race along, it seems to slowly unfold and draw you in without you realising.
on 13 May 2013
I discovered this book on iO9's list of sci-fi must-reads for 2013. I was hooked on the sample, couldn't put it down, and am still thinking about it weeks later! It would make a good light read for a sci-fi fan who likes romance/relationships (and robots, of course). I also enjoyed the setting; it's America in the future, and some things have changed - e.g. the Midwestern Desert - but the author doesn't beat you over the head with it. Some reviewers wrote about not being able to connect with the main character, but I didn't find this to be a problem at all.
on 2 February 2013
When Cat gets a tutor she first thinks that Finn is a ghost as he acts strange and does not eat. However, Finn is a robot, and as Cat grows up she struggles to accept that Finn is not sentient and feels nothing towards her.
The Mad Scientist's Daughter is a romance book with a sci fi twist, however, it just is not my type of book as I prefer sci fi with a romance twist (I know it sounds the same but it isn't). I liked the book at the start with Cat as a child, as I thought it was interesting to explore about the world she lived in but as she got older I just found myself bored and the pacing slowed as it jumped through the years.
As the plot jumped forward in time a lot I felt I did not know adult Cat a lot so could not connect with her. Also I did not understand her attraction to Finn as he did not change and I could not see a spark between them. However I would have liked to get to know Finn more in this book as see how life is like for him, but I felt we did not understand him enough.
Why I have put it 2 stars instead of 1 is that the Mad Scientist's Daughter is not my usually type of book, and therefore might be brilliant for those who like kind of genre. I would recommend this to people who like the Time Travellers Wife film (and probably book as well but I have not read it so I can't say).
on 14 February 2015
TRIGGER WARNING: Domestic violence, gaslighting.
Someone ages, and someone doesn't. They first meet when the ageing human, Cat Novak, is about five years old. Meanwhile, android Finn stays as an adult throughout the course of the novel. As a teenager, Cat falls in love with Finn, but at that stage he isn't able to feel feelings as such. Is it okay for a human to use an android to serve their sexual and emotional needs? Finn doesn't object, but had their genders been the opposite, would your answer change?
In various forms of media, it's a common concept for a white man to fall in love with, and try to rescue, a female "other". Cassandra Rose Clarke flips the genders, but the story doesn't progress in the usual loud, revolutionary, overthrow-the-government, kill-all-opponents manner. Instead, it's a quietly elegant unfolding, of two people just trying to cope with the way society works, though it's not to their liking. Each of them tries to do the "right" thing, though their decisions turn out to be the worst for them. Rest assured that it all works out in the end, but this is a happy ending that must be worked for, and the characters are put through their paces to earn it. It's often a sad tale, but one well worth reading.
I bloody love this book. This is sci-fi romance the way it should be - real and relatable; simple on the surface, but deeply exploring everything. Realistic characters and scenarios, keeping the heart of the story down to earth. It's magnificent, and a must-read.
on 26 April 2014
The strapline on the cover of this intriguing book is A Tale of Love, Loss and Robots. And that is exactly what it is about.
Finn looks and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task now is to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion… and more. But when the government grants right to the ever-increasing robot population, Finn struggles to find his place in the world, and her heart.
If you’re looking for a slam-dunk, action fuelled adventure full of clear-cut baddies and heavy-tech weaponry, then don’t pick up The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. Because this offering is on the literary end of the genre, with nuanced, three-dimensional characterisation and coolly sophisticated prose that places this book in a heavily contemporary setting, due to the recent crash in civilisation – and also accounts for the sudden, huge reliance on robots, as their tireless assistance is needed to provide vital labour in rebuilding society. Not that this is the focus of this tale.
This story concentrates on Cat and her relationship with the world, after having been tutored by a robot for all her formative years. And, by default, Finn’s relationship with Cat also is under close examination. Because the bond between them is heart and engine of the book, it has to be pitch-perfect. And it is. Don’t expect any black and white answers – this book is beautifully complex and Cat’s life unfolds in unexpected and sometimes disturbing directions. Cat is a challenging protagonist. At times, I really disliked her selfishness and assumption that her needs are paramount – but then, she was brought up by an endlessly patient mechanoid, whose main task was to entertain, teach and befriend the little girl. Why wouldn’t she believe her wishes were of supreme importance? However, this book cleverly displays her patent shortcomings – and then has her face a series of life events that challenge her assumptions. And as she gradually learns that much of the blithe assurances she and her father mouthed back in those early days were far too cosy and simplistic, we get a ringside seat to her suffering and gradual maturity. By the end of the book, I was thoroughly rooting for her – and for Finn, whose initial purpose is far from clear cut.
Clarke’s clever examination of this complicated and often emotional subject assumes her readers are equally intelligent and willing to allow her to gradually unfold some of the major problems surrounding close relationships between humans and robots in a thoroughly grown-up manner. I loved it and will be recalling this classic book for a long time to come.
on 30 January 2013
Caroline for [...]
Copy received from [...] in exchange for an honest review
While I have a growing appreciation for YA fantasy and speculative fiction, particularly those liberally sprinkled with romance, I have to admit that I am more than a little intimidated by the thought of reading these genre's within the adult category. So while the synopsis for The Mad Scientists Daughter, sparked my interest with its originality, my main reason for request to review The Mad Scientist daughter was my love of the authors Debut novel The Assassins Curse (read my review here: [...]).
Commencing The Mad Scientists Daughter I had high expectations of the quality of the characterisation and storytelling and just a touch of apprehension of reading outside my comfort zone. The synopsis led me to expect a book about personal growth and character development, which dealt with discrimination within a futuristic (speculative fiction) setting. This is exactly what I got, but rather than, as the synopsis suggests, the focus on Finn struggling to find his place in the fast changing world, it was in fact Cat's (the afore mentioned Scientists daughter) third person perspective which guided the story.
While I found the synopsis misleading, it didn't effect my enjoyment. If anything the story, within the pages of The Mad Scientists Daughter, was much more my usual kind of read.
What I discovered with each compulsively turned page was a beautiful character driven, heart aching, love story. The books tag line: "a tale of love, loss and robots", rather than the synopsis is a much more accurate description of this gorgeous book.
In Clarke's post apocalyptic world, robotics and artificial intelligence has been utilized to rebuild and repopulate. As a result technology has developed exponentially, the existence of sentient machines, undeniably helpful to humanity's recovery from disaster, have thrown up issues concerning servitude, discrimination and rights of freedom. It is against this backdrop of challenge and change that our protagonists attempt to define and nurture their unusual relationship. Clarke's world building was beautifully subtle and as a result felt completely plausible.
I adored the author's ability to believably portray Cat over a significant portion of her lifespan. From the wonder and imagination of childhood, through the awkwardness of adolescence and in to an unhappy adulthood, Clarke maintained the essential elements of Cat's character but realistically allowed for the changes brought by age and life experiences.
At time Cat is frustrating, full of contradictions and not altogether likeable. She makes some seriously questionable decisions, callously hurts those she claims to love most and those who love her. Despite these obvious flaws I remained on her side throughout, hoping that she would untangle the mess she had made of her life and rooting for her happy ending. By introducing Cat from childhood the author inspired my loyalty. Having witnessed her mentally absent, neglectful father, her desire for the approval of her frustrated mother and her need to be normal, I was able to understand her decisions even if I couldn't condone them.
Finn is a complex robot, completely unique in his believable human like appearance and sophistication of movement, speech and behaviour. Yet, Clarke's writing ensures that you are constantly aware that he not human. The big question for Cat, and for the reader is, if by the nature of his complex programming and wiring he is capable of conscious thought, would the same quirk's also allow him to be capable of feeling?
Verdict: If you are looking for hearts, flowers and candle lit dinners you won't find it here but if you are in the mood for tear inducing, head shaking, heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting love story, within an unusual setting and with a unique love interest, The Mad Scientists daughter is for you.
Note: Cassandra Rose Clarke is fast becoming an author whose work I will automatically preorder. I can't wait for The Pirate's Wish, the sequel to her YA debut, The Assassin's Curse. In the meantime, Cassandra has recently released The Witch's Betrayal, a prequel novella featuring our favorite strong and silent assassin.