Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Date: January 2013
Genres: Science Fiction
Buy the Book • Goodreads
The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is the heartbreaking story of the journey from childhood to adulthood, with an intriguing science fictional twist.
There’s never been anyone - or anything - quite like Finn.
He looks, and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task is to tutor Cat.
When the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world.
Reviewed by: Mary
The plot of The Mad Scientist’s Daughter sounds familiar to anyone who has been reading science fiction for a while. If you read only the summary, it’s likely you might even pass the book by, assuming there’s not much new to offer. I certainly would have without a combination of good reviews and a sale on my Nook.
I have not read any other work by Cassandra Rose Clarke before I started, and if so I imagine her name alone would have been the draw I needed to pick this book up. Her writing is amazing, she has a way of describing emotions and environments that kept me completely immersed. Her world building skills are obviously top notch. Everything she touches takes on a bit of magic, an extra quality that makes it surpass the simple actions that are occurring.
Which is good, because this isn’t an easy plot to love and Cat, the main character, is often very unlikeable. She makes bad choices for worse reasons, and generally doesn’t even come across as an anti-hero. I stopped being particularly upset about most of the things that happen to her by around halfway through the book. The plot itself feels like it’s been done many times, and usually from this perspective of the person falling in love with the “emotionless” robot. There are two things that stand out about it, Cat is not a typical heroine and sometimes that works and other times it really doesn’t.
The other difference is Finn, the android at the heart of the story. The story is strongest when it’s dealing with Finn, his construction, and his change over the course of the book. Normally books about androids use the robot as an unchangeable center to the narrative, but instead Cat really becomes the more stagnant of the two. I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation lately and lamenting the lost opportunity the writers had to really explore the nature of emotion and the different ways people relate to the world through Data. Instead he’s declared “emotionless” despite often displaying rudimentary feelings.
Clarke doesn’t back away from that story I’ve been so desperate to see, but she doesn’t really quick get there either. Mostly because the story is about Cat and not Finn, and while Cat has her own struggles with emotions and experience feelings “differently,” she’s not aware enough of it to really make that part of the narrative sing either. This is a story about a human who is supposed to feel but doesn’t trying not to fall in love with a robot who isn’t supposed to feel but does. There is so much that could be done with that, and I’m very sad that it just doesn’t quite do what I wanted, I guess.
That’s not to say I’m upset with the book though, it was still so beautifully written that I have already started looking for anything else that Clarke has written and I’ve recommended it to a few people as well. But you have to be willing to forgive a few weaknesses in the plot to truly enjoy it.