Published by Tor (4.25.2023)
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Format: Audiobook, 432 pages
Length: 15 hours, 22 minutes
Narrator: Daniel Henning
Source: I own it
In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots--fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They're a family, hidden and safe.
The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled "HAP," he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio-a past spent hunting humans.
When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio's former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic's assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.
Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?
After Cerulean Sea, I would have picked this up regardless (even though I wasn’t a huge fan of Under the Whispering Door); but at YALLfest I saw him on a panel where he talked about the book and said it had a sentient Roomba with anxiety. And I KNEW I needed it asap!
Said Roomba and the other sidekick robot, Nurse Ratched, were by far my favorite part about this book! Rambo the vacuum was adorably anxious and needy, which made for a very (and hilariously) interesting pairing with the sassy Nurse Ratched, who was a bit sociopathic and a lot sadistic. I loved the story overall, but they definitely stole the spotlight. They had me cracking up! There were so many times I actually laughed out loud when I was listening. Daniel Henning’s voices made it even better; Nurse Ratched’s voice was PERFECT. Her “there, there” in the robotic voice, followed by her completely not comforting platitudes killed me!
I didn’t know this was a Pinocchio retelling until after I’d started reading it. I’ve seen the Disney movie once, like a million years ago (it was just okay for me); but other than that I’m not super familiar with the story other than the basics. I could see the references for sure, but to me this felt like a mash up of LIFEL1K3 and WALL-E (and also maybe a little of Alita: Battle Angel). I adore apocalyptic technology stories like that! It’s so viable in our world (which makes it a little scary sometimes). The world building in this book is spot on! Klune gives just enough to give you a grasp on the world, but not so much that it becomes too heavy. I also want to say that he is a PRO at atmosphere. Just like the other two books, there’s an uncanny feel to this book that is wholly unique!
Along with atmosphere, this one also has the fantastic characterization and heartwarming connections that Klune is also a pro at. The relationships and found family in this story are where this book shines! The web of relationships between the main characters (Vic, Hap, Nurse Ratched, Rambo, Gio) is incredibly endearing. I loved that toward the end Hap softened to the robots and Gio! The very light touch of romance between Vic and Hap was sweet and tentative, and I love that it was more of a side note than a focus. Every single one of the characters had a distinct and realistic personality – it’s the kind of story that leaves you feeling like they’re real people that you know and forged a bond with. It’s funny that a book about a bunch of robots could end up being so full of humanity!
Writing style: 4.5/5
Overall rating: 4.5/5