Title: The Mad Scientist’s Daughter
Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Publisher: Angry Robot
Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy
The mad scientists Daughter is the most extreme story of unrequited love that I have ever read. The idea is a good one, set in a future where androids are a reality, it raises the question of what makes something ‘human’ enough to deserve rights. At what point does using androids become slavery? We’re talking about machines with sentience here and the one in this story has more sentience than most.
Caterina grows up with Finn. When he first arrives at her house, she’s senses something different about him and decides that he must be a ghost. Only when she is much older does she realise that he is an android. He becomes her tutor and she falls in love with him. Of course there are a lot of problems associated with that, not least of which is that Cat doesn’t admit it to herself and when she finally does, she tells herself that he can’t feel, a convenient way to absolve her of the problem of trying to live her life being true to that love. He doesn’t help by reminding her that he is just a machine.
Only when it’s too late does she realize not only how much she misjudged him, but also how little she actually knows him, how subtly she has treated him like a machine. There’s a lot of value in this story, but it moves way too slowly, especially for those who would usually read science fiction. It’s more like reading contemporary romance with an android as the male character; even then the pace is frustratingly slow. The tediousness of the pace does reflect Cat’s life, but I think the book would have been better had it been pruned considerably.
The characters were all well-drawn and had my sympathy. I ached to see Cat and Finn come together, but parts of Cat’s character annoyed me. She drifted through her life, letting it happen to her rather than taking control in any meaningful way. Her decision to marry was so obviously the wrong choice, her feelings for him so obviously non-existent that I couldn’t believe she could be so stupid. Her friends didn’t even try to convince her it was the wrong choice. Then she literally moped around the house as nothing more than his wife, letting her life slip away as if she had never been anything other than a hollow shell designed to look pretty at his business dinners. I was subjected to pages and pages that told me the same thing – she was totally miserable.
The prose itself was well-written and very detailed; I felt what Cat felt, smelt what she smelt, heard what she heard and so on. The detail made the writing immediate, but overall, there was too much of it. Unnecessary detail was one of the reasons the story moved so slowly.
I enjoyed the book in a kind of masochistic way, because the story was quite painful, not only because of the pace, but also because Cat was so passive. Nevertheless, I couldn’t put it down. I just had to see those two get it together.
3 stars, for me, but if you aren’t bothered by a slow pace, you may well give it more.
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“Cat, this is Finn. He’s going to be your tutor.”
He 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 now is 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.