You Are Now Leaving Flames Avenue, Welcome to Emotionsville

The Mad Scientist's Daughter - Cassandra Rose Clarke
I've been dreading of this… moment, my entire day. I finished this book a good 9 hours ago. Went to work. Stared at the wall while having too much coffee. Fought with my boyfriend. Had a bit more coffee. Did a bit of mole surgery (the patient was okay despite the caffeine). Ate a shitload of carbs with coffee on the side with my cousins.

I did all that while thinking of this book.

And dreading the moment, this moment, when I have to keep the voices in my head quiet and forge my thoughts into something coherent.

Because it's always a bitch to write about the good ones.

I've only ever read one robot book (it sucked). It's not a particularly enticing subject matter for me, I really wasn't a fan of Pinocchio and stories like these tend to take that predictable route and this has Disney written all over it. I've seen AI, thanks, not feeling the need to revisit Haley Joel Osment. 

This book was such a pleasantly humbling experience.

The Mad Scientist's Daughter is Caterina Novak, who at the start of the book is five years old, seeing her father come home with a ghost named Finn. Or what she supposed is a ghost but is actually an android (something that she learned early on, thankfully) who has been brought to live with them as her father's lab assistant. Finn is different from his contemporaries, in a time when robots are discriminated as mere appliances, he's astoundingly human-like in appearance and his mannerisms. He's one of a kind, but still unmistakably a robot. Cat grows up with Finn, initially as her tutor, her friend and eventually, her lover and the book pretty much covers her at various stages in her life from being a sheltered little girl to the kind of woman she eventually became. 

Which of course translates to this book being quite a long one. But still ended up feeling short for me. The fact that this was told as a third person account of Cat's perspective gave the story a fairytale-like feel and Cassandra Rose Clarke's cold, almost matter-of-fact prose was a perfect contralto to this unrelentingly sad, emotional story set in the not-so-distant future. There's no relief from the deep ache in your heart, no rest from the rattling in your bones. And just when you think the story is starting to turn the intensity down a notch, you realize it's only to stir questions in your mind that will still be bereft of answers in the end.

Yet I couldn't stop reading because she is human right? This author? Surely some mercy is coming for these characters Finn and you want to know how, where and when.

I'm fairly certain, Cat isn't the kind of character the reader was meant to tether their emotions to. Mostly because she represents the kind of humanity that we have in all of us that we don't like to examine too closely. The one that's the consummate consumer, the default user, that comes out in zombie apocalypse scenarios and survival games set in isolated islands. It was simultaneously uncomfortable and fascinating to remember how we, as a race, perceive ourselves relative to the bottom-dwellers of the food chain, our needs before them. How selfish we can really be. That was exactly what Cat represented. She wasn't a monster, she's very human. She means well, it's just that she means well first for herself than anyone or anything else.
"Was that acceptable?" Finn asked.
"Yes," said Cat, the word drawn out of her as though on a tapestry needle. Something inside of her - her calcified heart, her numbness - had cracked in two, and she was trembling and she thought, Here, this, this is what it feels like to feel something.
There's a very clear depiction of how both Cat and Finn evolved in two opposite directions. Where one becomes progressively mechanical: an empty shell, a ghost; while the other gradually gains sentience, becomes more human in so many ways. I love how her father, the mad scientist, served as an excellent plot tool in driving the latter half of this book. His moments with Cat brought a different dimension in the story that made this one of the most dynamic stories I've read in a while.

The world building was pretty solid, I rather liked how not-so-distant the future here was. It never felt alienating or too technical and I rather liked the grain of relatability that was ever present. These details were introduced seamlessly in the story without resorting to infodump or inconsistency. I'm actually reluctant to shelf this as sci-fi/dystopian with how very relatable this future felt, none of the slick inventions or highfalutin engineering wonders that always comes across cartoonish to me. 

I've thought more thoughts in those 9 hours, thoughts that this book can rightfully claim made this reader think in the first place. But my mind has been over-caffeinated and my hard drive is already near-full with crap I really don't need (did you know people who are allergic to latex are 50% more likely to be allergic to bananas as well?). And I'm a bit sad that I can't recommend this to all of my friends because it is quite heavy and the sadness followed me a little throughout my day with how things ended in this one. I had very little to critique about this book but I have no urge to revisit this anytime soon… or ever again. 

Because I have a feeling this is going to stick with me for a VERY long time.

ARC provided by Angry Robot thru Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.