How could I resist a novel with a title like The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke? Doesn’t it just ring with all kinds of possibilities? Some of you may recognize Cassandra’s name because we also reviewed her fantasy YA novel, The Assassin’s Curse. Her flowing writing style made me want to read more from her.
The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a very different dystopian novel geared toward adults, which explores what it really means to be sentient. If you’re into dystopian stories, science fiction, robotics, relationship stories, or just like a good thought-provoking novel then read on. One lucky reader will win a copy!
The U.S. has reached a stage where it can’t sustain itself any longer. That’s sad for adults but for kids like Caterina “Cat” Novak, it’s the only world they’ve ever known. Cat’s father is a scientist. Some call him mad, and maybe they’re right but he’s the only father she’s ever known. Her mother used to be a scientist too, until she had Cat. Now she mostly seems to be a mom, at least from Cat’s point of view.
Cat’s smart and her parents want her to get a good education, instead of just running wild in the woods, but they don’t think it’s safe for her to go to school. One evening her father introduces her to Finn, her new tutor.
“The round, familiar silhouette of her father stepped onto the porch, followed by another figure, tall and thin and angular, a figure Cat didn’t recognize. She clutched the fireflies to her chest and crept around the perimeter of the yard to get a closer view.”
“There was a person sitting in the plastic chair, only he didn’t seem like a person at all. His eyes focused on Cat, and she yelped and ducked into the crawl space beneath the stairs…’What have you got there, Kitty Cat?’ He [her father] pointed at her jar of fireflies.
‘It’s my light-jar.’
‘I see,’ said her father. ‘And a lovely light-jar it is.’ He reached under the stairs and plucked her out, swinging her through the cool night air and bringing her to rest on his hip. ‘I have someone I want you to meet.’”
Her parents argued over whether it was appropriate for Finn to be her tutor but her father won apparently. Finn looks human. He’s actually an experimental android but he’s the most human-like android ever made. At first Cat thinks he might be a ghost since his eyes glow silver in the dark but as she gets to know him, he seems exactly like a human and she accepts him as one instinctively. She believes his unusualness might be what the arguments were about but isn’t sure.
“’A perfect tutor,’ her father was saying. ‘You said you didn’t want to send her to that school in town.’
‘This is not what I meant, Daniel. He…It…It’s unsettling.’
‘He’s not an It, darling.’
…She wondered if Finn could hear them arguing too. She wanted to knock on the door and tell them to keep their voices down, since it was potentially dangerous for a ghost to hear any discussion of itself.”
“Cat stood up and so did Finn, pushing his chair back neatly. He smiled at her again. He seemed exceptionally polite for a ghost, although it was possible that was how ghosts tricked their victims.”
At first Cat doesn’t like the idea of having a tutor but she loves stories. Even though Finn can be a hard taskmaster when it comes to her education, she actually finds that she loves to learn and is such a sponge when it comes to knowledge that she doesn’t mind, except when he bores her with numbers. They quickly become inseparable. She finds she can talk to him about anything and he’s always there for her, unlike her parents who are constantly distracted by whatever cybernetics project they’re working on.
“Cat didn’t understand why they were talking about Finn as though he were a computer. It must be a scientist thing.”
“’Why were they talking about you like you were a computer?’ she asked.
‘Because I am a computer,’ said Finn. ‘I’m a machine.’
Cat stared at him…’You don’t look like a computer,’ she said.
‘I know,’ he said.
Cat considered this. A computer and a ghost had similar characteristics. Neither required food or air or scarves to keep them warm in the snow. And if he were a computer, it would explain why he didn’t disappear that day in the cemetery, why animals were not afraid of him.
‘You’re not like the other computers in the house, though,’ she said. ‘Or the ones you told me about, that helped build the cities. You look like a person.’
‘I believe I’m one of a kind,’ he said…
‘I don’t mind that you’re a computer.’ She ran up to him and wrapped her arms around his legs, leaning her head against his hip…
‘I’m glad,’ he said.”
As she grows up, she and Finn become even more inseparable if that’s possible. They are the best of friends and Cat cares for him deeply. She has to remind herself that he isn’t human because she constantly forgets. He seems to care deeply for her too, and she continues to confide in him about everything. She wonders how she could even survive without him, but fears she might have to find out.
And that’s more than I should tell you about this novel, while being so much less than I want to tell you. I loved Cat’s character – from super smart, precocious little girl to confused and torn adult. I also loved Finn but Finn needs to remain a mystery for you to discover on your own. I am not a romance fan, so I’m not going to call this a romance. It is, however, a story about all kinds of relationships, and what it means to love and be true to who you are.
Cat’s parents are like parents everywhere. They want the best for their daughter. I won’t say more about her mom to avoid spoilers. Her father is like the world’s most absent-minded professor, who couldn’t survive without someone to watch over him and make sure he remembers he’s a living thing that needs to eat and sleep. Theirs is a family misunderstood by the “normal” people around them – probably not a huge surprise to you, but it adds tension to an already tense situation.
Cassandra Rose Clarke has written a novel with layers that peel back like a flower. I had planned to say that you could just read the surface of this novel’s multi-dimensional story and walk away but that isn’t true. Once it grabs you, you’re going to have to dive into the deep end. You’ll look at what it means to be human with new eyes. The Mad Scientist’s Daughter grabbed on and wouldn’t let go – it made me laugh and cry, and think for days after I finally put it down. I highly recommend it! And someone’s going to win it – WooHoo!
Can’t wait to read it?
The Mad Scientist’s Daughter will be published in the U.S. on January 29, 2013 and in the UK on February 7, 2013; however, it’s available for pre-order from your favorite online bookseller now. Just click the button to go there to get it. As an example, Amazon has it priced at $8.29 for the paperback and $5.94 for the e-book.
I’d love to get your comments on The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, Cassandra Rose Clarke or her other work, and/or this review. To read our review of her prior novel, The Assassin’s Curse, click here.
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Our Giveaway: One lucky reader will win an advance readers copy (ARC) of The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke!
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