Mad Scientist's Daughter
by Cassandra Clarke
Review by Steve Sawicki
Angry Robot Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780857662644
Date: 07 February 2013
Cat, a young girl living with her mother and scientist father is, one day, introduced to a man, Finn, who is to be her tutor. He's an odd man, in an attractive way, and soon Cat comes to depend and trust him. Soon after, Cat realizes that Finn is not a man at all but an android. The neighbors and others are less than happy to have a robot living among them. As Cat grows she learns much from Finn, yet less about him. They become friends and Cat struggles to define exactly what that means.
Her mother's death deeply affects her father and Cat provides some caretaking although much of his care falls to Finn. As Cat enters college she spends less and less time with Finn. Yet her experiences in the natural world are not fulfilling and her marriage to a man who seems to adore her, although she is not sure she even comes close to the same feelings for him, pulls her farther away from her father and Finn.
Soon everything is coming apart. Her father's health, her marriage and the sale of Finn to a corporation that is going to use him for lunar mining leave her alone and despairing. In the end, Cat must address her feelings and her responsibility in her own past.
Cassandra Clarke has written an interesting novel. It's subtitled "A tale of Love, Loss and Robots", and that's pretty accurate although the only real robot in the book is Finn. This is a book that falls into the dreaded category of character driven science fiction. I say dreaded because it is not the type of category that most fans of science fiction seek out. And that's a shame because good writing is good writing and Clarke has written a very interesting and well written novel that deserves the widest distribution possible.
I enjoyed the book overall although I struggled a bit with Clarke's sparse detailing of her future world. However, when I finally realized that this was less a story about the future and more a story about Cat it became much less of an issue. This might still be an issue for some though, although I hope it won't stop people from picking up what is a very good book.
I liked the interplay between Cat and Finn although the emotional wreck could be seen coming from quite a ways off. In the end I think this is exactly the kind of book that science fiction needs. It humanizes a genre that is all too often about technology and things, rather than people. You should definitely go out and get a copy and see for yourself.