“Eliot’s father built androids; the son will rebuild them, or at least he’ll rebuild this one as best he can. With whatever parts he can recover.”
Eliot’s android girlfriend is kidnapped and dismembered, her parts sold off to various places. This is completely legal since Iris didn’t belong to anyone – she was a free agent – and the police only concern themselves with wrongs against “heartbeats”, not bots. So Eliot becomes obsessed with finding all her parts and getting his girlfriend back.
I decided to read this book based on how much I liked the cover art and despite everything in the description and title. Who can say they have ever judged a book by its cover to such an extent? I’ve never read anything or been compelled to read anything involving androids and I really do dislike romantic themes. But this is not a romantic book (as I would define romance) and personally I’ve never encountered androids quite like this. The android girlfriend is barely in a few scenes and the rest of the time our protagonist is obsessed with finding her – her parts that is – even though he has the doubts we all have about love no matter how infatuated we may be.
“… did she lie to rush me into finding a boat? Did I ever want to leave this world and live on a tropical island before I met her, or did she plant the seed within me and water it until it grew? Whose life am I living, whose dreams and desires am I risking everything to fulfill?”
But Eliot’s love of Iris is greatly overshadowed by the all the action unfolding in the plot. If you are looking for romance you’re in the wrong place. If you’re looking for shiny, innocent androids following Asimov’s rules you are also in the wrong place. If you’re looking for seedy characters and plenty of action and cringe factor, welcome to Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Judd Trichter.
Eliot is a prime example of something people have been talking about in book circles; that characters don’t have to be relatable or likable to be great characters. He’s an addict, is inactive or apathetic in the face of depravity, and is constantly making excuses for himself, but only to himself because nobody else seems to care. This is a world apparently devoid of enlightened minds, or at least, those who think with compassion and hope have been killed, exiled, and pushed into corners. Eliot’s oftentimes sidekick is his older brother; a man who is perfectly thrilled to live in a city constantly threatened by android versus human terrorism, polluted to the point of universal toxicity, and overflowing with debauchery and corruption. Despite his brother being part of the big-picture problem, he is loyal to Eliot and will stand by him in his dangerous escapades. These are complex characters and it makes for excellent plot development.
As Eliot is sucked further and further into the ugliest parts of a completely fucked up and, well, ultimately fucked city he constantly has to reason out his own personal moral choices. In fact, the main theme of the entire story is morality. Where does one draw the line? At one point he asks himself, “… how could this happen? How could a goal so noble come to this? How could a love I felt for another turn me into this?”
“I fucked up,” says Eliot.
“Only by your own terms.”
“What other terms are there?”
The story always goes back to this rough philosophising over good intentions and the value of the lives of two equally sentient species, one biological, the other synthetic. Eliot usually ends up doing what could be loosely said to be the right thing but he doesn’t usually get a happy ending out of anything he does. The collateral damage takes its toll on him.
A side note about the author and creation of this story – this was in the acknowledgements:
“A couple of years ago, I was incapacitated by a painful injury in my lower back. Thankfully, my mother was kind enough to fly out to Los Angeles and look after me for the months it would take to recover. While bedridden, when I was unable even to pick up my head and see the screen on my laptop as it rested on my stomach, I somehow, through a fog of painkillers, typed out the first few drafts of this story. Without my mother’s help, I never would have been able to manage the ordeal of my injury let alone write a novel during that time.”
As someone who is disabled- well, I won’t go into it too much but I took heart when reading this bit of information. It certainly endeared me to the author’s efforts.
And so, I have but a few criticisms on this novel. Sometimes the world building seemed a bit sloppy and confusing, and I have a dislike of future worlds having a sort of cut and paste of present-day society’s woes when it is supposed to be a hundred years into the future. By then, society will have changed in ways we can’t predict. Why not show more creativity in that area?
And finally,I just want to include this sentence which kept echoing in my mind as I read the last ten percent of the story…
It ends – appropriate to what preceded it – with a wild crescendo of violence and uprising.