This novel is a beautifully complex peek at what our robot-laden future might hold. Unfortunately, it is flawed in presentation, which reduces the enjoyment of the read.
My first problem is imperfect grammar and punctuation. Readers interested in this advanced style of writing are also aware when “lie, lay and laid” are mixed up. They notice when three successive sentences start with the same character’s name. The get thrown out of their immersion in the story when misplaced modifiers result in “…a woman in a long jacket with a blocky face.”
If you want to write in a literary style, your readers want the writing to be of literary quality as well.
Which raises a more important concern. Writing style is this novel’s greatest strength and also its greatest downfall. It is fluid and colloquial, making the individualistic future jargon sound natural. Poetic description and colloquial language flow out of this writer’s pen like liquid gold. He makes generous use of metaphor, combining with an incredible depth and breadth of world-building to fill the book with visual and emotional richness.
However, there can be too much of a good thing. The book is literally a hundred pages too long. Every new scene gets a full, 360-degree pan of the camera. Every new concept gets a page or two of parenthetic explanation.
The attention to detail works well in the extended action sequences, described in second-by-second precision and up-close empathy. (A minor quibble: when the main character is in a fighting trance, there is a distancing effect that keeps the reader’s emotions from becoming deeply involved. If the character doesn’t feel pain, neither do we.)
The work is also thematically fascinating. Freedom for robots involves a discussion of their function, which leads us to question the purpose of humanity. This, in turn, brings up determinism and free will, and the characters have many compelling points to contribute. Which they do, in great detail.
Like many literary novels, the enjoyment of this work is more about the writing than the story. So, try it out. If you like the writing style, go for it and enjoy yourself. If you want the writer to get out of the way and let the characters live the story, then this book is not for you.
(4 / 5)
This review was originally published on Reedsy Discovery.