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Metallic Love by Tanith Lee
Review by Jeffrey Lyons
Spectra Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0553584715
Date: 01 March, 2005 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Loren grew up as an orphan in the foster home of overly zealous care providers. As a teenager she stumbled across and read a copy of a banned book entitled ?Jane?s Story", which recounted the writer?s illicit relationship with a robot named Silver. Loren finds it both preposterous and fascinating and she can?t stop thinking about it.

The META Corporation rebuilds and reprograms Silver and renames him Verlis. (Yes, the rearrangement of the syllables is deliberate.) Loren is determined to meet Verlis and when she does, like Jane, it is love at first sight. Although Verlis has Silver?s memories he is enhanced and different. He is also the leader of a group of robots built to provide sexual and other pleasure to humans. Loren?s love for Verlis is tested especially when Jane reenters the picture.

Verlis has other plans, which will not only affect the future of the human race and the robots but it will guide Loren to her own surprising destiny.

Reading Metallic Love is like peaking into the private diary of a young, immature girl enamored by her first love with a Sci-Fi backdrop. It is presented in the first person, which allows us to become drawn into Loren?s inner confusion about her true feelings for Verlis. Frequently she talks right to the reader by saying things like ?I?ll stop now.? But it gets to the point where you want to say, ?Okay! Get over it and make up your mind already.? Loren?s mood changes are distracting. One minute she loves Verlis and can?t live without him. The next she wishes he?d just go away. It is difficult to determine whether she?s just cynical or doesn?t want to fall into some sort of forbidden love affair of the future or suffer the same disappointment as her idol Jane.

On the other hand this book is the epitome of how relationships go for most of us and in that sense is a true portrayal of the accompanying emotions. At times Loren sounds like the very model of an abused lover. She always returns to Verlis despite the way he causes her mental and, at one point, physical harm. These incidents would be countered with declarations of love and faithfulness from the abuser (a.k.a. Verlis). However it is clear at the end that Verlis loves her more than he could anyone else in the universe.

There's widespread debate over the role of Asimov's Laws of Robotics in fiction about robots. It's a matter of personal taste. Three of the robots deliberately cause the deaths of humans and although we know they did it, their motives are never clear. Tanith Lee applies her own variation to Asimov's Laws here, and that may contribute to the unclear reasoning for those violent acts. That aside the characters, metallic and otherwise, are mostly believable and three-dimensional. The book drew me in and kept my attention throughout.

This book is the long awaited sequel to Lee?s The Silver Metal Lover, which was first published in 1981. There are enough references to the earlier novel so that you don?t get lost. The book reads like a romance novel and as such it might be an acquired taste for some. Still, it's a futuristic love story with a twist.

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