Shelf Reflections

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

“When Cat Novak was a young girl, her father brought Finn, an experimental android, to their isolated home. A billion-dollar construct, Finn looks and acts human, but he has no desire to be one. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection.

His primary task now is to tutor Cat. Finn stays with her, becoming her constant companion and friend as she grows into adulthood. But when the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, Finn struggles to find his place in the world. As their relationship goes further than anyone intended, they have to face the threat of being separated forever.”

When I picked up this book, I expected to find something with a higher science fiction quotient—after all, the synopsis makes it sound like robot rights are a central issue.  What I got, though, was something far better: a love story that transcends the way we think about what is human and what isn’t.  Of course, it’s impossible not to compare this novel to The Bicentennial Man, but this story comes out ahead in that particular contest.  At the risk of sounding cheesy, the movie was about how many years you live, and The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is about how much life you allow into your years.

The love story takes center stage over the other plotlines concerning robot sentience and the state of the world in which this novel takes place.  It still feels like a fully fleshed out setting, though.  In fact, I hope that Clarke writes more in this world, because I would like to have seen a broader picture of the landscape and the people.

Much of the novel is achingly poignant.  As Cat grows up and grows older, her contact with Finn decreases and her life takes a turn for the worse.  Clarke’s writing at these moments is extremely evocative, and I felt genuine sorrow at what Cat goes through.  I wouldn’t necessarily call Cat a completely sympathetic character, as she doesn’t always treat Finn as well as she should, but believe me, you will feel for her by the novel’s end.

This book is a great Valentine’s Day present for the science fiction aficionado in your life.  It hits all the right notes and delivers a tale that is often heartbreaking but always has that element of hope that love will conquer all.  The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a lovely and moving story, and I highly recommend it.

This review was originally posted on February 12, 2013.

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(Description nicked from Goodreads.com.)

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