Title: The Mad Scientist’s Daughter
Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Genre: sci-fi, speculative fiction
In short: absolutely stunning. Wrought with emotions, certain to leave you absolutely raw.
Warning: this review is peppered with (non-spoilery) quotes. Because there is never not a reason to quote works of art.
Goodreads: “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 is now 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, and in Cat’s heart.
Wow. So. Wow. I finished this book several hours ago, and I’m still not sure I can describe how it tore me apart and pieced me together again. I’ve dreamed of being a writer for a decade, and there are times when I finish a book, feeling utterly overwhelmed, and think, this is seriously the kind of literature I want to write someday. Not the kind that will catapult you to stardom or bestseller lists. I’m talking the quiet, thoughtful, innocent backlisters. The ones that seem so harmless and then leave you sobbing through the afternoon. Because that’s the kind of book The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is. It is not just a book. It is a work of art. It sort of reminded me of Carlos Ruiz Zafón‘s novels in the way it totally shattered me. TMSD is much lighter than that, don’t worry, but the entire book has a way of conveying an overwhelming sadness. I was blown away.
Note that this book isn’t really young adult, but nor is it really adult. There are some scenes in it that probably aren’t appropriate for younger readers, but I think anyone with the mindset to enjoy it will love it.
TMSD follows Cat Novak, a cyberneticist’s daughter, from her childhood to adulthood. Rather than sending her to school, her father brings home an android one day, a robot who looks completely human but unnatural at the same time. He is introduced to her as Finn, and from then on, Finn becomes Cat’s tutor. For years, the two spend every day together, and Cat sees him as her best friend despite her parents’ insistence that he cannot feel or form attachments, and that politeness is in his programming. Cat is sent to the local high school later, since her parents think she ‘runs wild’ in the woods too much. And slowly, she starts to see Finn as something other than a friend. Something more, perhaps. The book tells of Cat’s life, her coming of age, her maturing, and her mistakes, and how Finn is permanently entangled in her story.
“Finn, can you fall in love?” she asked.
“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.”
The language is bewitching, so that even though the story is not fast-paced, it draws you in. And yet, it’s not overdone, not too heavy in a way that a lot of similar books tend to be. It’s simple, but oh, it’ll make you feel, even in the little things.
She felt like a seashell, pretty enough but empty and easily broken.
It reads like fantasy, in fact, like sci-fi without much technical terminology or the dreaded capitalised-first-letter-words (you know the ones. They’re in all dystopians. The War. The End. The Process, the Power, the Government). It’s gorgeous in its lightness, its laid-back pace.
Then there’s Cat. As far as main characters go, I loved her. Not because she was perfect. I loved her because she made idiotic decisions, because she was selfish and horrible and an ice queen at times. Though I was ashamed to think it, it struck me that if I was in her situation, I would probably have made the exact same mistakes. I would’ve done the same stupid things and hurt the same people. You know the sinking feeling you get when you just know you’re the unlikeable character of a book? That being said, she was a lovely protagonist. Even if you don’t like her, you will undoubtedly feel for her, because that’s just how it’s written.
“Finn, do you think I’m pretty?”
Finn stared at her. “Pretty?”
“You know, beautiful. Hot. Whatever.”
“I do not-” Finn stopped. His eyes vibrated, and his brow furrowed. “May I think about this?”
Cat immediately regretted asking him. She laughed to make herself think it didn’t matter. “It’s not really a thinking-about sort of question,” she said. “Forget it. It’s OK if you don’t.”
“I believe it is for me.” His eyes continued to vibrate. “A thinking-about sort of question.”
This book is about so much more than romantic love as well. It’s about family, friends, growing up, maturing, the difference between growing up and maturing, selfishness, and learning to love. It’s about consciousness, about humanity. If there ever was a thought-provoking book, it’s this one. It’s absolutely brilliant, and I would recommend it to anyone, without question.
I have more quotes, but you know. I’d prefer not to spoil anything, and you can experience all that first hand – read it!