For a simple Science Fiction Action story, this novel contains a surprisingly complex amount of thematic material. It discusses freedom, free will, love, war and the nature of truth, using the thoughts of JAK (a full-on a battle-type killing machine) and his discussions with a seven-year-old girl. A large amount of the story takes place inside his head, as he analyzes his feelings about life. Despite the fact that he insists he has no feelings, we are soon drawn into his quandaries.
The strength of the story is in the characterization. Jak himself is a complex and sympathetic character, despite his supposed lack of emotion. The fact that this all-powerful warbot is experiencing pretty much the symptoms of human old age brings him closer to us. His struggles to discover the proper way to act are very human as well.
In the beginning he makes very clear, definite decisions, as a robot might, but not the way a human would. However, he has the human child to help him, and as the action progresses, his character develops.
Secondary characters are likewise fleshed out and individualistic, with realistic personal conflicts.
The action sequences are well described and visually explicit, although the robot’s emotionless narration does take the edge off the suspense. Later in the story, when we have gained more empathy for this character, the effect of the conflict is stronger.
A minor irritation comes from sentence structure problems of the, “Going to the store a deer jumped in front of me,” variety.
There are places where the discussion slides into lecture, but only a few. For the rest, the author lets the characters and the story speak for him. Jak muses about alien planets, the afterlife, genocide, and what makes a good person. No spoiler: in the end, of course, he becomes one. It’s that kind of story.
Highly recommended for more thoughtful Sci-Fi readers.
(5 / 5)