In a future where artificial humans have become common household helpers, a government-employed therapist must question his faith in the system he has long supported.
Orphaned at a young age, Jay was raised by a “humaniform,” a robot programmed as a caretaker. Jay’s older brother, Ian, was 18 when their parents died. Jay loved his robotic mother, and he feels abandoned and betrayed by Ian, who hates humaniforms. When Ian reappears in Jay’s life, he asks Jay to testify that Ian is a responsible enough father to take custody of his children without the help of a humaniform. Jay hopes that Ian might learn to accept humaniforms. But Ian persists in trying to prove that the robots and the government that provides them—the government that Jay works for—are both corrupt and dangerous. As Ian tries to influence Jay’s life, Jay realizes that his wife, Sasha, may not be as sympathetic toward his work as she had always appeared. In order to defend his own position, and protect his childhood memories, Jay must probe into the workings of his world—and he begins to see that there is a sinister element behind his apparently benevolent government. Though Tsui’s setting may not hold up to deep analysis, Jay’s imperfect understanding of it allows readers to see the world through a filtered lens—and share Jay’s horror as he unravels the truth behind the system he thought he knew. His relationships, with humans and humaniforms alike, are genuine in their complexity, and as Jay begins to understand the truth, he ultimately learns how much he values his loved ones. Questions of human identity, illusion versus reality and the types of sacrifice required for true caregiving continually move the story forward.
A compelling narrator drives this strong, sympathetic tale that begets metaphysical soul-searching.