"It's impossible to love something you know's made out of wire and metal."
"You talk about him like he's a computer."
"He is a computer," said Dr Condon. "That's what I'm trying to tell you."
"It's not flesh and blood," she said. "It's not normal."
Mind: blown. Preconceptions: dashed to pieces. I cannot say in all honesty that this has converted me to the genre, but my god, what a fabulous read. What a fantastic work of literature. This is going to be such a difficult review to write because my emotions are all over the place. Books rarely make me emotional. I'm not a crier. A friend promised me tears. Thus, I reached for this book. I wanted something that would make me cry.
I didn't cry. But that is not to say that this book did not make an emotional impact upon me. It did, tremendously. I was angry, I was upset, I was infuriated. I felt resentment. I felt hopelessness. I felt an immense sense of doom. I was heartbroken.
No, I didn't cry, but this book left me with an uncomfortable lump in my throat, a painful prickling of tears in my eyes, and a terribly unattractive red nose by the time I finished. And you know what? I'll gladly wear my unseemly red nose as a point of pride, because of how much I loved this book. I will gladly go through my day sniffling like a fool. This is the best book I have read in a long time, in terms of pure artistry, in terms of the raw power of emotional depth it weaves in its characters. I have rarely encountered a book that felt more real.
The writing is spare, simple, evocative, and absolutely impeccable for the tone of this book. If the writing in this book were a man, I would take him to my bedroom (and perhaps the basement afterwards), tie him down with a silk rope, and make violent love to him. The writing is flawless.
This book should be read as a character study, a love story, a tale of human nature and growth. I am not a fan of slow books, I prefer the fantastic, the excitement of livelier genre. This is a change of pace for me, and this is a risk I am so glad I took. I'm not an adventurous reader. I stay away from subjects I don't like, I stay away from things I do not care for. I love technology, I love computers, but robots, androids, mechanical beings do not interest me. I've stayed away from many a beloved series (Cinder, for example), for that reason. I don't like androids.
You know what? Screw the android factor, screw the technology. This book's strength lies beyond that. This book should not be read as science fiction, because the android man within it is far more human, far more real, far more loveable than most of the literary men I have ever known. You know that one friend you take for granted, the one friend who has always been there for you? The one who stays up at 3 AM with you, listening patiently while you are sobbing away your sorrows? The one friend who becomes such a constant in your life that you don't realize their significance until they're gone? This is an ode to that friend, an ode to the good guy, a love song to all who have been there, done that, and never appreciated for the treasure that they are.
Summary: It is America, some time in the future. There has been an event known as the Disaster. Much of the American Midwest is barren. Robots and androids is no longer the stuff of science fiction, but a fixture in everyday life. They have helped to rebuilt the cities after they have been devastated. The setting is rather vague, but the setting is unimportant, much like the backdrops in a play. The people, and one android in particular, are the stars of this book.
Caterina Novak was five years old when she first met Finn. A tall, pale young man. He looks real, but there's something not quite right about him. Something not quite human. She decides that he is a ghost. She tries to get rid of him, bringing him to a cemetary, because she has heard that ghosts will return to their resting place.
Finn doesn't disappear like a recalcitrant spirit. He stays on. He becomes her tutor. Finn becomes her friend, and remains her friend through her carefree childhood, through her bitter adolescent years. He listens to her, he is a silent ally in the face of her brilliant father's loving neglectfulness, in the face of her brilliant mother's disappointment in her unacademic daughter. He is always there for her, silently supportive through it all.
Androids do not have emotions. Androids do not feel. Androids are not people. Cat's father, Daniel Novak, becomes known among the town as "the mad scientist" for his work with androids. A preacher in town rallies against his work.
"A person? No, it's just a machine made to look like a person...So they can steal jobs from us easier. It plain ain't right. That's what my preacher says." His face dropped down. He looked Cat straight on. Her entire body shook. "I mean, your dad made it, right? A human being? Way I see it, any robot that close to a person is an abomination."
To many people, androids are wicked, evil, an abomination against God. Cat defends Finn through it all.
They are friends, they are best friends, until one day when their friendship feels like something more.
He was close to her. Cat felt light-headed, and she knew it had nothing to with her inability to understand math. She was on the precipice of something. It coiled inside her like a snake and made her fidgety and distracted.
Years pass. A string of boyfriends have come and gone. Oscar. Michael. Richard.
Life passes by, with its devastations and its joys, compended with an impending sense of claustrophobia as you feel the walls closing in.
What is love, if you can't have it, if you avoid it? What is love to one who cannot feel it? Cat and Finn's lives are separated, joined, but their fates are intertwined. Everything will come crashing down in a crescendo
Cat cried harder. She leaned her head against Finn's chest. Water lapped at their bodies. His hands were in her hair. They did not kiss; they did not speak.
Everything had unraveled.
The Characters: There is not one single character who was not flawless in this book. I don't mean flawless as in likeable, because they are certainly not all likeable. They are sometimes despicable, they are oftentimes cruel, they inspire pity, hate. They are not flawless, but I loved them all, because they all feel so perfectly human. Humans are not perfect. Humans are flawed, destructible. You do not raise a human to a pedestal, because they will inevitably fall.
There are many who will hate Cat. I understand. So do I, at times. I am resentful of her. She starts off as a spoiled little rich girl. She is an only child, left to roam the woods alone with Finn, with little supervision. She is rebellious, hatteful towards her mother, who wants a brilliant child, not one who is inclined towards artistry. Cat is the kind of girl that I hate, someone who seemingly has everything handed to her on a platter. She is beautiful, she attracts the kind of guy a lot of girls would kill to have, with not much effort other than her own looks and careless personality. Cat is the kind of girl of whom I would whisper behind her back "What is he doing with HER?" Admit it, we've all been there.
Cat is selfish, ever so selfish. She goes through life as a cloud, not really caring about anything along the way. She faces problems with the skill of an ostrich: if I stick my head in the sand for long enough, I can pretend that the problem doesn't exist. She is immature, she remains this way, until her life starts to disintegrate.
I loved it when Cat broke. I was devastated with her when her life shattered, however I was indifferent to her before, however I belittled her before.
The world was utterly still, and she was aware of the movement of the inside of her body: the expansion of her lungs and the fluttery pumps of her heart, pushing blood out into her extremities. Her heart, broken a million times over.
The thing is, Cat grows up. We see Cat through so much of her life that it feels like observing someone you know grow up. Cat matures. She learns. She realizes her selfishness. She cries for her own cruelty. She recognizes her mistakes. She accepts them.
Cat took a deep breath. She wiped her muddy tears away. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm sorry I didn't realize."
I'm selfish, she thought, and then she thought it over and over. I'm selfish. I'm selfish.
The Romance: Love is an integral part of this novel, and it should be. The love of a mother for her child. The love of a mad scientist, who is not so much a mad scientist as much as he is a bewildered father. The love of friends. Most vitally, the love of a woman who has to grow up before she realizes she is capable of it. The love of an android who could not, who should not be able to feel such a thing as emotions.
"Finn, can you fall in love?" she asked.
Finn froze. On the record, one song faded out and another began. Laughter from the kitchen.
"Oh, Finn," said Cat. "No. No… I meant." She stopped, bit her lower lip. "Please don't think–"
"Think what? It's a reasonable question." He paused. Cat's heart pounded. Her head ached, the start of a hangover. "No, I don't believe I can. Love is far too ill-defined a concept to work within my current parameters. It's too...abstract."
Can androids fall in love? The answer is yes, yes, they can.
"Desire is simple," he said. "Desire is something even a machine can understand." There was a stillness in the air that mirrored the stillness of his body. "But when I desired you I began to love you. You were the first being I ever loved. I didn't know it, of course. I had no idea what it meant, no idea what I was feeling. Love was never something I was supposed to experience." He laughed against her skin. "Later, I was finally able to understand the complexities of love. Even if I didn't want to. At first."