Writers just love to explore the relationships between humans and robots. And to explore the idea that robots can somehow have a soul–or that humanity and emotions and love can be programmed.
It’s both an interesting and horrifying thing to ponder. Because if robots can feel emotions like love and empathy, then they can also feel emotions like rage and jealousy. But they don’t have any of the social or relational constraints holding them back that humans do. And of course they don’t have religion. How can they when ultimately, they can be turned off and on.
The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney is told entirely from a robot’s point of view. Which is both interesting and slightly confusing all at once.
From the Publisher:
Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.
She is a miracle of science.
But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives—and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?
Beware the man who calls you . . .
When I first started reading the book and realized that the narrator was a robot, I was a little thrown. But then, when I remembered all the robots who really have emotions and aren’t just a hunk of metal–like the Battlestar Galactica cylons and Westworld’s friendly neighborhood robots–and I realized that I could relate to a robot.
And Abbie is the cadillac of robots. She was made to take the place of millionnaire tech genius, Tim, who lost his wife 5 years earlier. Not only does she resemble Abbie in every way–unless of course you peel back her skin–but she also has Abbie’ memories. Tim found a way to download them onto her hard drive.
I had a bit of issue with that, I just couldn’t wrap my head around how a robot could be truly programmed with someone’s memories, and not just someone else’s abridged version of those. But how is not necessarily important to the story.
I really enjoyed this one. It was interesting watching Abbie the robot wake up to the realities that were Abbie the human’s life. Through this plot mechanism, Delaney is able to feed the reader a bit of Abbie and Tim’s backstory just a morsel at a time.
That said, I was never on the edge of my seat, and I was a little confused by the end. It may actually warrant a re-read of that part. But Delaney opens up an interesting train of thought. How human can we make robots? When have we gone too far?
Special thanks to Netgalley and Ballantine Books for an e-galley in exchange for my honest review. This one is out August 6, 2019. Get your copy!