Author: 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 my third read for TJ Klune. Since I loved The House in the Cerulean Sea and Under the Whispering Door, I had high expectations for this one. Klune does a fantastic job at creating the found family aspect that feels like a warm hug. This story followed the pattern of the other two where there were a ton of interesting elements that made me want to keep reading, but the found family part stood out the most. This novel has elements of a retelling of Pinocchio mixed with Wall-E, The Wizard of Oz, and many others that seem to have some influence. The story begins with android inventor Giovanni Lawson who, through a series of events, adopts a human boy named Victor (Vic). Together in their house also live a robot named Nurse R.A.T.C.H.E.D. (Registered Automation to Care, Heal, Educate, and Drill) and cleaner, Rambo. When Vic brings home an android named H.A.P (Hysterically Angry Puppet), a chain of events leads to Gio being taken and Vic sets out on an adventure.
As Victor is an asexual younger (I believe he was in his early 20s) human who grew up isolated among robots, it was interesting to see him navigate the world on his search for Gio. While the androids come along for the journey, there was a fun mix of personalities among the machines and human. The adventure to the City of Electric Dreams is slower and focuses a lot on the characters. The characters have distinct personalities, and I loved their banter. The humor in the story hits many different notes where I can see some of it not being for every type of reader. There were some moments where the humor does not land with me, but I did enjoy it overall. The characters in this story take a bit to build and connect with me, as a reader, where I did not find them captivating right away. They did grow on me a lot by the end, though, and I love how their connections developed.
The sole human in this novel provides a good thought experiment about how they fit into an android world and there are great explorations into how the androids may have some humanity. This was all well done while keeping the focus on the main group. The story had great emotion integrated into the writing and I loved each character’s journey. The side characters do sometimes steal the show away from Vic, but I do love that the main plot retains focus. Since I loved Klune’s other two novels, it was difficult not to compare them. This one does not quite surpass the other two but is still a great novel and keeps me being a fan of Klune’s work. Overall, I look forward to reading more from him in the future!
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Tor Books, for the opportunity to read this entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**
2 thoughts on “~ Book Review: In the Lives of Puppets (ARC) ~”
This sounds like a ton of fun! I’m going to have to check it out. Great review.