Title: The Mad Scientist's Daughter
Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Rating: 2 Stars
Looking back, I think I can acknowledge that The Mad Scientist's Daughter is more of a tragic love story than anything else. Although it's been marketed as sci-fi, focusing on robots and a dystopian future that seems eerily similar to something our own children may experience, at the core, it is all romance and not much else. Let me clarify - all dramatic and angst-riddenromance. Unfortunately, I didn't even feel much for this main romance since I was too preoccupied coming up with ways to murder the main character, Cat. I feel like an anomaly, simply because everyone seems to have at least liked this story, if not loved it, but I was literally crying tears of happiness as I neared the end. I suppose, though, that at the end of the day, some books aren't for everyone and this one just wasn't for me.
I will say, however, that Clarke has some of the worst synopsis writers ever. Seriously, the synopsis for The Assassin's Curse gave away the entire plot and the synopsis for this one gives away too little. Ultimately, however, the novel is about, as its title suggests, Cat, the daughter of famed scientist Daniel Novak. When Dr. Novak brings Finn, a robot who looks and seems human in every way, to their home when Cat is only five, her entire life is changed. At first, their relationship is one of tender friendship. Cat is tutored by Finn, but as she grows, so do her feelings for him. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Finn isn't human, he's only a robot, so he can't possibly feel anything for her too...can he?
I found the premises of this novel to be fascinating and was quickly drawn into the story of Cat as her life unfolds, from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. Yet, as I finished the first part of this novel, for it is split into three parts, I couldn't help but lose my former enthusiasm for the story. For one, the novel justdrags. It covers nearly half of the total lifespan that Cat lives and as such, it is a long book, one with lots of extraneous details and under-developed secondary characters that it is impossible to feel much for because of their fleeting presence, giving way to more than a little skipping.
More important, however, Cat is an unlikable character like no other; unlikable to the point where she's quite literally a badperson, not someone who is good and has their flaws. As Cat grows and continues to deny her feelings for Finn, treating him as a robot while seeing him as a man, she uses him in more ways than one; uses him as an object, never bothering to care for his feelings and exploiting him for her own gain, despite her care for him. Later, in an effort to escape her attachment to him, she uses other men in her life, for instance her rich husband whose love she never returns. It's all just one disaster after another; death followed by a loveless marriage followed by more sorrow.
If all that desolation wasn't enough to turn me away, I never felt as if Cat was truly redeemed by the end - I still hated her with a passion. Now, books, as John Green would say, are not in the business of creating likable characters, which I totally understand, but I do believe that they are in the business of creating bonds with a reader and that was sadly missing. Of all the characters in this tale, the only one I came to feel for was Finn; sweet, kind Finn who seemed to be utterly manipulated by everyone in his life, from Cat's kind father to Cat, who loved him, herself. Furthermore, more than a lack of emotion or feeling when it came to this book, there were so many aspects of Cat's life that we found out about, but that played no larger role overall; I guess that the plot outline was generally very sloppy for this, introducing elements that were completely unnecessary and leaving me detached even from the story itself.
Yet, even more than the characters and my dislike of the romance, this book sorely disappointed me with all its wasted potential. At times, the novel would veer towards political debates on the humanity of these robots, whether or not they should have been granted rights, etc., but none of this was further explored. Furthermore, Cat never undergoes any doubt or lingering qualms before entering into a relationship - or whatever you want to call it - with Finn. Of course, she realizes that it isn't normal or evenright to be in love with a computer, but she doesn't seem to care or worry. In fact, the only character who ever calls out Cat on her relationship with Finn is her mother, who is conveniently killed off in the first third of the novel.
While The Mad Scientist's Daughter was not a book for me, I'm sure it will move many other readers. I'm not one for angsty romances that remind me of the majority of adult romances that I so painstakingly avoid and especially not with hints of politics and sci-fi thrown in thrown in for the sake of it; I'm especially not one to condone heroines who use men in a twisted love triangle fashion, giving the type of love that is seen as practically obsessive for they are a mere shell of themselves without their loved one. I cannot deny that Clarke is a phenomenal writer and her versatility has definitely shown through in her quick - and successful - venture into adult novels. Still, I think I'll just stick with her YA books - God knows I can't wait for The Pirate's Wish to release!
Thank you to NetGalley and Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.