Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics get a middle-grade twist.
Christopher thinks he’s a 12-year-old boy. He lives with Absalom, an unlicensed engineer who uses his robot inventions to grift vulnerable people out of their money, and an endearing cast of other mechanical creations. When Christopher gets hit by a car selflessly trying to rescue one of his metallic friends, he accidentally discovers that he is also a robot—a highly illegal one, as he’s clearly “ensouled”—and is promptly whisked away by men purporting to be from the government agency overseeing such matters. Worried, Christopher’s friends, constructs and flesh, go on a quest to save him. They even enlist the help of the most renowned engineer in history, the man who created Christopher to fill a void in his own family. Points of view bounce around confusingly, with prose that feels in need of some tightening and oiling. In this post–World War I England, all the nonmetallic characters seem to be white given that even the flesh affixed to robots is described as a “white mixture” that develops “a fleshy pallor.” Hard-to-follow action sequences and pseudoscientific terminology blunt the emotional stakes, which are felt more in the side characters than the main quest.
Young science-fiction aficionados will appreciate this story despite its malfunctions. (Science fiction. 8-12)