Book Review: “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter” by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Mad Scientist's DaughterTitle: The Mad Scientist’s Daughter
Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Publisher: Angry Robot
Publication Date: January 29, 2013
Length: 400 pages

Obtained: I bought my copy from Amazon.

The Plot: When Cat is a young girl her father brings home Finn and tells her that Finn is going to be her friend and her tutor. Cat doesn’t know what to think of Finn when she first meets him and is a little bit scared of him. However, as the years go by she realizes that Finn is actually an android, one of the most sophisticated ones ever built and the two of them become fast friends as he educates her as a tutor and becomes her closest friend at the same time, something that will serve as a catalyst to change their lives.

Later in life Cat leaves home to go her own way, finding a job, having romantic relationships with others, and generally just living life, but in the back of her mind stays Finn, the one person, or thing that she cannot live without. Their relationship is special in ways that nobody else in the world can begin to understand and it puts them in a place to break down barriers of what it does or does not mean to be human and to feel alive.

The Commentary: When I first heard about The Mad Scientist’s Daughter it was because I was looking over a list of books nominated for a variety of science fiction and fantasy annual awards. I didn’t know what the book was about and I’d never heard of the author before as being one that had a lot of well-received books to their name. It was simply on the list with several other books I considered to be very good. As a result, I filed it away as a book I might pick up someday if the opportunity came about, but I didn’t go out and buy a copy right away. Then a long time later the book showed up on the Kindle Daily Deal, which is a favorite place of mine to buy books I know I probably want to read, but don’t know if I want to pay full price. As I had noticed the book before I decided it was worth grabbing a discounted copy to hold on to until I found the time to give it a read. If I would have known how amazing the book was I would not have waited nearly as long as I did before picking it up.

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is not an action-packed science fiction novel. That is apparent from the first few pages. As a matter of fact, the book reads much more like literary fiction that happens to have robots as part of the puzzle. It was such a major departure compared to the other things I was reading around the same time that it reached out from the pages and slapped me in the face. It was a breath of fresh air rushing through a world of reading filled with spaceships and lasers. The book really took me out of my element and I’m a better reader as a result.

The relationship between Cat and Finn is not something unexpected once you get past the first few chapters. You can readily see that the author is setting the two of them up in certain ways, but don’t worry, that doesn’t ruin anything. Their relationship progresses naturally, unforced, very much believable given the established circumstances. That’s what I loved most about this book. Everything seemed so very believable in a genre where oftentimes the reader is asked to plow ahead with a notable chunk of suspended disbelief. Not so with The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. The world Cat and Finn live in has robots, granted, none as sophisticated as Finn, but robots all the same. Relationships on the whole are different in this near-future setting, and civil rights are once again a hot topic of discussion, only this time concerning the rights of the androids.

When I finished The Mad Scientist’s Daughter I was sad. I wanted there to be another 100 pages for me to enjoy. I wanted to see what happens with Cat and Finn just one year down the road from where the book ends. I wanted to see what happens with the two of them so much. It’s unfortunate that the book appears to be a standalone work as I would very much love to read a follow-up book that jumps forward in time fifteen or twenty years and delves into the various political and cultural changes that were just getting started as The Mad Scientist’s Daughter ended.

As it stands now, halfway through 2014 I imagine The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is easily going to be one of the best books I read all year. Unless some more books really surprise me by coming out of the woodwork, I expect I’ll be featuring it again at the end of the year as part of my “ten best books I read in 2014” list.

Needs More: Finn. Granted, Finn is a rather big part of the entire story, but when I finished I felt like I would have enjoyed a few more pages of him interacting with Cat. There are a few times when time jumps forward, particularly towards the start when Finn and Cat are just getting started in their relationship when she’s a young girl. It would be really interesting to see a little more about how as a little girl Cat played tricks on Finn to discover what he was all about.

Needs Less: There is very little in The Mad Scientist’s Daughter that isn’t necessary to the story as it’s a very tightly woven plot, but if there was one thing that I could have done with less of it’s the back and forth Cat has with some of her other relationships. I understand that they served at least in part as a contrast to her relationship with Finn, but once or twice they were just a tad bit overdone.

Worth It? Absolutely! I think everyone who is a fan of science fiction needs to read this book at some point. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I picked it up and was blown away by the quality of the writing and the crafting of the story. It’s no surprise that The Mad Scientist’s Daughter was nominated for so many awards.

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Audible   |   Goodreads

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