HE, SHE, AND IT by Marge Piercy


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 Despite a contrived subject--the parallel adjustment problems of a 21st-century cyborg and a 17th-century golem--the latest from Piercy (Summer People, 1989; Gone to Soldiers, 1987) boils down to a gripping love story. Shira is a midlevel artificial-intelligence expert working for Yakamura-Siemens, a corporation-state. When she loses custody of her beloved son, she returns to their birthplace, a little enclave centered around the practice of Judaism, and accepts a job working for Avram, the father of her childhood lover. Avram has created an incredibly sophisticated robot that can pass for human. To counteract the violent tendencies that had marred his previous efforts, Avram enlisted Shira's grandmother Malkah to construct the robot Yod's human personality (i.e., to make ``him'' needy, emphatic, sexual). Intermixed with Shira's narrative are Malkah's messages to Yod, including an overlong didactic bedtime story about the creation of a golem in the Jewish ghetto of Prague--a golem who protected the community against deadly pogroms but who guaranteed his own demise by falling in love with a human woman. Y-S, the nasty conglomerate, wants Yod and tries to use Shira's love for her hostage son to get her to betray her community. But Shira has fallen in love with the robot. As the golem's tale foreshadows, many complications follow. Piercy's scattershot vision of the 21st century underwhelms, and all eyes will glaze over during the Prague interludes. But unlike her past efforts that have substituted overheated plotting for focus and character development, the latest fleshes out its heroine and creates a resonant evocation of love found and lost. An overwrought conceit, then, that has at its core an engaging story.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1991
ISBN: 0-679-40408-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991


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