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Blog Tour Review - Service Model by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Blog Tour Review - Service Model by Adrian Tchaikovsky To fix the world they first must break it further. Humanity is a dying breed, utterly reliant on artificial labor and service. When a domesticated robot gets a nasty little idea downloaded into their core programming, they murder their owner. The robot then discovers they can also do something else they never did before: run away. After fleeing the household, they enter a wider world they never knew existed, where the age-old hierarchy of humans at the top is disintegrating, and a robot ecosystem devoted to human wellbeing is finding a new purpose. There is so much to love in Service Model, but one of the things I most love about it is the peculiar blend of charming innocence and insightful cynicism. Uncharles the domestic robot is such a simple soul (though he would state that he has no soul and this is an inaccurate description). He approaches the end of the world with optimism and hope, or whatever equivalent to these emotions h

Blog Tour Review - In the Lives of Puppets by T J Klune

 Blog Tour Review - In the Lives of Puppets by T J Klune

In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots - fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe. 

The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio - a past spent hunting humans. 

When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming. 

Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?

In the Lives of Puppets is a wonderful, imaginative fantasy novel. It starts off in the middle of a forest, where the main characters live in an amazing series of tree houses, linked with rope bridges. The novel itself references Swiss Family Robinson as the inspiration, and it just feels idyllic. Nearby are the much scarier scrap heaps, huge piles of junk regularly added to by massive and threatening cranes, the Old Ones. Vic and his robot friends scour them for parts and interesting curiosities, despite the myriad dangers.

That's where they find Hap, a badly damaged android, and the initial driver behind much of the novel's action. As soon as Hap joins this group, this family, it becomes clear that there are a lot of mysteries and secrets that need to be explored. Some of these surround Hap himself, an android with no memory of who he is or where he came from, but we soon see that Gio, Vic's father and the oldest android in the group, has secrets of his own. Some are revealed during, and in the aftermath, of a dramatic confrontation, and then the remaining robots and Vic go on a road trip/adventure to find Gio and more answers. 

One of the core strengths of In the Lives of Puppets is the way the characters are presented. I absolutely adore Rambo, the cheerful optimistic vacuum, and Nurse Ratched, the murderously sociopathic nurse robot. Their interactions with each other and with the other characters of the novel are hilarious and brilliant. Nurse Ratched switching her empathy mode on and off is a truly delightful touch and I lived for her flirting throughout the book with anyone and everyone. The humour is a very strong element, particularly through these two, and they're just absolutely delightful. Running gags like what the nurse did to the squirrel really just add to their charm. (Don't worry, animal lovers, it went to a farm where it will live forever.) 

Hap is a much harder character to get to know and love, perhaps deliberately. So much of his past is obscured for much of the novel, and when it is revealed, it's not exactly endearing. But I loved watching his relationship with Vic develop and grow through the course of the story. 

Vic himself, the heart of the novel in many ways, is a very endearing character. He's not perfect, but he tries his best to overcome the trials he faces, and I do love that he's allowed to lean on his friends for help and support rather than needing to go it alone. There's a strong sense of family here, with Vic in the centre of it all.

There's also some interesting philosophical thinking in this novel. It's layered in subtly amidst the adventure and excitement, but there's a lot in there about the nature of humanity, which is all the more fascinating given the relative lack of humanity in the setting. There's also debate and pondering about forgiveness, and acceptance, and who can actually forgive, that I found really thought provoking. As well as that, the book deals with responsibility and consequences, freedom and conformity. As I said, it's a nice, light touch, never dragging the flow of the story, but like all the best science fiction novels it asks us some big questions, and nudges us towards some possible answers without too much hand-holding. 

It's also great to see some asexual representation, and although Victor's bodily functions are often used as the subject of jokes, I felt it was ultimately done respectfully and done well.

The adventure itself is exciting! A small group head off into the unknown, and along the way they discover some very peculiar places and some most curious people. There are threats and unexpected help, and it's often hard to tell one from the other, as everyone they come across has their own complex needs and agenda, making them feel very real and solid, even the non-corporeal characters! There's danger, there's bravery and ultimately there's sacrifice, all the ingredients of a fantastic quest! 

I absolutely loved the references to our world too. From the Top Hat film nights, that have the robots singing "Heaven" as they travel, to a load of jazz songs I've since been listening, they give it a soundtrack all of its own that really helps to set the mood of the story. And the image of a bunch of futuristic androids standing around listening to Miles Davis is just wonderful.

There's emotion too. Beneath the humorous sidekicks, the philosophising androids and the daring quest, this is a story with a lot of heart. And because most of the characters are machines it questions the nature of feelings and emotions a lot, as well as exploring them tenderly and powerfully. 

In the Lives of Puppets is a gorgeous story, and a lot of fun!


In the Lives of Puppets by T J Klune is out now from Tor UK.

I was given a review copy in exchange for an honest review and participation in this blog tour, organised by Black Crow. 


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