WARNING: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!
This book is about Caterina (“Cat”) Novak, daughter of scientist daniel Novak, friend and lover of android Finn. In the broadest sense, it is about life and learning to live. The book encompasses much of Cat’s life, starting about the age of five as a rebelious, wild young girl, to her being tutored by the android Finn, to her schooling, to a marriage, to caring for her ailing/dying father, to the birth of her own child…. In the course of a lifetime, one learns about what it is to live. The added complication is the android Finn, who also experiences many of the same conflicts, and comes to understand what it is to live, and with his unusal look on everything we understand that life and living can be interpreted in so many ways.
Author Cassandra Rose Clarke does a wonderful job of weaving the tapestry of Cat’s life before us…showing us what is important and skipping over what is not. Clarke manages to add nice, soft touches of imagery and allusion to the story (Cat’s mother’s garden; the weaving of a tapestry; the living in a glass house; etc) as well as some nice literary irony (Finn is the tutor, but it is Cat who teaches him about life). I came to respect Clarke’s writing and know that if there was something on the page, it wasn’t just filler but something integral to the story. nice work here by the author and, presumably, by the editor.
In so many ways, this reads like a YA book… full of pathos and unrequited love and the sense that no one understands the pain of our protagonist. But the inclusion of the sex scenes, particularly that of Cat with the fully capable android, left me more than a little uncomfortable. For the wild abandoned sex alone, I’m not sure I’d want my teenage daughter reading this book. The book shows conflicting emotions/theories of the inappropriateness of Cat’s relationship with Finn. The general public seems to frown on the relationship, as did Cat’s mother, but she dies early in the book. But because are wanting to like Cat and Finn, we the readers are wanting that inappropriate relationship to flourish. By the end of the book, of course, I was hoping the two would be a re-united.
In the typical YA tradition, Cat is filled with angst. She is an unhappy human being most of the time, and willingly puts herself into unhappy situations because she thinks it is her way of taking the ‘high road.’ She is selfish, and self-abusive. Typically I don’t enjoy these kinds of books, but Cassandra Clarke has created a character and a story that is absorbing and fascinating. Despite Caterina’s flaws, I wanted her to get better. Usually, in these cases, I just don’t care.
I liked the uniqueness of each character that appeared. Even those who were only there for a chapter, or to reveeal something about our main characters, had unique voices and traits.
The flaws in the book, for me, were the fact that on a few occasions I felt as though the information was forced on the reader a bit a-typically (for instance, the visit to Finn’s orginal creator). Also (and this may just be the fact that I am suddenly reading multiple books with this horrible human trait…) — why smoking? Why does Cat smoke cigarettes? Can’t we do a little better than that?
Looking for a good book? This is a beautifully written futuristic romance about life and what it means to be alive.
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The Mad Scientist’s Daughter
author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
publisher: Angry Robot
paperback, 391 pages