A reissue of Clarke’s (Our Lady of the Ice, 2015, etc.) 2013 novel about the relationship between a roboticist’s daughter and the android she’s known since childhood.
Cat Novak is a little girl when her father brings a stranger named Finn home to act as her personal tutor. Despite her age, Cat knows that something is different about the new arrival, but her parents avoid her questions about him. At first, she draws her own conclusion from what she knows about Finn (he doesn’t eat, he doesn’t get cold or tired, his eyes shine silver in the dark) and thinks he’s a ghost. She cares for him anyway, even after he reveals the truth: he’s an android—the most advanced one to ever exist. As time passes, Finn continues to live in the Novak household, acting as her father’s lab assistant. Even though she knows he’s not human, Cat’s feelings for Finn deepen as she becomes an adult, leading her to question just how sentient he is: does he care for her? Can he care for her? When tragedy upends her life, she turns to Finn for consolation—a choice that sets them on a path that will alter both their lives in unexpected ways. Although this setup may sound like a girl-meets-robot romance novel, this love story is set in a firmly science-fictional setting. Much of Clarke’s worldbuilding has a very light and deft touch, putting the story in a near-future version of the United States as the world rebuilds after a series of environmental crises. But, at times, the detail is too scant—for instance, it’s never completely clear how many other androids there are or how exactly they differ from Finn in terms of appearance or self-awareness. The humans sometimes feel lacking in detail, as well: Cat makes some terrible decisions with her life, but when she finally becomes conscious of the inner conflicts that drove her to her bad choices, it feels forced and unnatural, resulting in a rather unsatisfying character arc.
An ambitious tale that doesn’t quite deliver.