The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Official Summary: ““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 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.”
In The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, Cassandra Rose Clarke creates a vivid world in which natural disasters have changed the climate of many parts of the country and robots have developed to a point where they are sentient. While the time period is never established, the feeling is that this is a very near-future world that has been ravaged by unknown natural forces that are only ever hinted at and never explicitly described. In the aftermath of this great change, humanity turned to robots to try to rebuild their world and adapt to their new surroundings. But, once the robots gained sentience and started being too much like humans, some people began to worry. The book opens when Cat, the main character, is just a child and there is a stigma to having an android with many people fearing and hating them. Raised with the android named Finn as a tutor from a young age, Cat can’t comprehend this hatred and she actually feels more comfortable with Finn than with most of her human classmates and friends since she was home-schooled and somewhat isolated for much of her childhood.
As Cat grows up and ventures out into the world, first to school and later to university and beyond, this attachment to Finn changes. Over time, she grows to love him and wants him to be able to love her in return, but he is incapable of these types of emotions despite the fact that he is a one-of-a-kind android designed to mimic humans in every way possible.
The Mad Scientist’s Daughter was nothing like what I expected. While it is clearly a science fiction story, as evidenced by the futuristic setting and technology, it is at its heart more of a character study than anything else. Clarke uses a society with androids to explore humanity and human rights in an interesting and engaging way, but even though this is a very satisfying part of the book, the story is really about Cat and a study of her personality and her choices, both good and bad. The world is an interesting mix of old and new that feels very real and well-developed without Clarke resorting to extensive exposition to set it up. All of the characters from Finn and Cat down to the minor characters that we only see briefly feel believable and familiar.
While I started the book looking forward to a more traditional science fiction novel, I think I liked the book as it is with a narrow focus on Cat and mere hints of the world around her even better than I would have liked a more sprawling science fiction novel focused on androids. Cat is an engaging character struggling against a society that she doesn’t quite fit within. She will keep you turning the pages to see where she goes next.
Check it Out: The Mad Scientist’s Daughter will be released on January 29th.
Readalike: If you enjoy Clarke’s writing, you may want to try her young adult novel, The Assassin’s Curse. If you are interested in another novel about an android, I would recommend The Alchemy of Stone, a very different, but no less engaging, novel from Ekaterina Sedia.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.