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The Mad Scientist's Daughter (2013): A vacuous girl falls in love with a bland robot who just ne

Robots: Humanoids

Recommendation: Save your time and money and get a copy of Marge Piercy’s 1991 award winning novel He, She and It which has deep relationships and a plausible science narrative.


Red alert! Red alert! It’s not really science fiction, it’s a romance novel disguised as science fiction. Cat, the annoying female protagonist, and by annoying I mean ANNOYING like whiny Eva in Waking Gods (see my review of The Themis Files here), drifts through life in a self-indulgent haze of cigarettes and ignorance. Finn, the robot she grows up with, is so thoroughly the cybernetic equivalent of the strong, but silent, stereotype that it is hard to believe he is the most intelligent robot in the world. But onto the plot: There are misunderstandings and the two, who should be together because of True Love, break up. But at the end, True Love triumphs, an orgasm switch is discovered (really!) and all is forgiven in the afterglow. I’m not making this up. Classic romance novel, where, instead of a cover with Fabio or a setting in an exotic location, sci-fi is the something different to set the book apart from the bazillion others.

If there are teachable moments in this book about robots, they would include noting that

  • autonomous driving cars will be common far sooner than handsome, male anatomically correct androids that can hold conversations and serve as a tutor

  • said androids would not be able to work in harsh lunar environments without modifications (see my Science Robotics article on astromech robots)

  • robots will not live forever just because they are robots. Machines break, they wear out. Even mountains erode. And they will need some sort of power source.

  • if a government passes a law that states a robot meeting a certain level of sentience must be accorded the rights of a human, then lots of people would probably notice that the world’s most famous, expensive, and intelligent robot in the world was not being accorded those rights. I don’t see this as an issue that requires debate at the We Robots conference on ethics and policy.

  • if you want to study a robot’s schematics in detail in order to feel close to him, then you almost certainly need that basic math and engineering that you failed in high school because you were too much of a free-spirited artist.

However, the book could be providing teachable moments about writing romance novels:

  • having an incomprehensible home life counts as whimsy (why was the scientist mom now a full time housewife? why did they choose to live in a remote area populated with fundamentalists?)

  • if you are beautiful, rich guys will want to marry you even if you don’t show interest in them, don’t keep up with current events (not even about robots) or have a job or work on great art masterpieces more two times a month

  • if you do something unethical, like conceal having a child from its father, it’s ok as long you are in True Love with someone else

  • If you wish it really, really hard, your child can look like the android you are in love with, not his biological father

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is slightly better than Humans, Bow Down! (see my review here) but, then again, that’s not saying much. Save your time and money and get a copy of Marge Piercy’s 1991 award winning novel He, She and It with a real romance and a plausible science narrative.

- Robin

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