Review: The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter
Cassandra Rose Clarke

Angry Robot
I received an e-ARC from the publisher in return for a review.
Released January 1, 2013
391 pages
Science Fiction / Romance / Robots / Feels

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"Cat, this is Finn. He's going to be your tutor."

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 is now 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 rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world, and in Cat's heart.

I honestly can’t keep track of all these “Daughter” name books, so I wasn’t completely sure what book this was when I opened it up on my Kindle during our first of many hour-long lines at Comic Con. But then there was a robot and robots make everything better, so instead of moving on to something more action packed, I stuck with the slow burn part political, part romance, part sci-fi, all adult book and found myself getting lost in it while convention chaos went on around me.

I suppose the proper blogger phrasing would be that The Mad Scientist’s Daughter gave me feels, lots of feels. Like serious “my heart hurts what is happening” feels. It starts when Cat is a small girl and her scientist father brings home an associate named Finn who will be living with them, working in his lab and acting as Cat’s tutor. There is something a little bit off about him, so Cat immediately decides he’s a ghost and tries several experiments to confirm her suspicions. She is, of course, wrong because Finn is an incredibly lifelike android and he quickly becomes her only friend. The rest of the book follows Cat as she grows up and tries to reconcile her relationship with Finn with the feelings and political views of society in general.

Cat’s world is very small for the first part of the book. She lives somewhere in the not-so-distant future where environmental collapse has made many once fertile areas of the world completely inhospitable to all living things. As a child, she lives, learns and plays in her family home, only leaving the garden, nearby woods and river for the occasional trip into town. She is alone except for her robot friend Finn until well into puberty when her mother finally puts her in the local town’s school. Finally faced with others her age, she has a steep learning curve for societal norms and a distinctly skewed opinion towards the ever increasing presence of robots.

The second half of the book sees Cat as a college student and then an adult as she tries to play a part that she feels she must in a world that is increasingly changing both technologically and socially. Clarke carries a political and moral dilemma throughout the book with Cat trying to maneuver the difficult waters of whether robots are human, have a soul and deserve civil rights. She has a unique perspective having grown up with Finn by her side and eventually finding herself she loves him.

Cat is kind of a horrible person, remarkably selfish and often stuck in a rut of discontentment and melancholy. Having grown up in a world that was more or less just her and Finn, she never is able to really enter the larger world no matter how well she fakes it. Despite her selfishness and her kind of horribleness, she’s incredibly empathetic and I found my heart hurting for her often. I can only applaud Clark for creating such a real person, completely flawed yet so human that I just wanted her to find happiness.

It had been a really long time since I had read a book that truly felt like it was meant for an adult audience that dealt with adult things that were Mcguffins or quests against evil. Even with the science fiction elements – including a base on the moon (but no Nazis) – Cassandra Rose Clarke’s novel is a quiet piece of art, full of thought provoking ideas about where the divide between human and machine starts to fade, the science of consciousness, and how love can be a destructive power. My heart broke for Cat and especially Finn as the years passed in the story, and I think this “Daughter” book will stick with me for a long time.

 

I received an e-ARC of this book long ago and it got lost in my Kindle. I'm glad I stumbled upon it again. Opinions are my own.