Sunday, August 22, 2010

Book Notes

I finished reading the first of my new library books yesterday.  I started with Adventures of the Artificial Woman, by Thomas Berger and I have to admit that I almost scrapped it.  Which kind of says a lot because I haaaaaate walking away from a book before I've finished it.  Something about time invested and what happens if it gets good/interesting/redeems itself/whatever but I'll never know because I didn't finish it?

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

(I'm not planning to do a big in depth book review or anything here, but I'd kind of like to keep my thoughts somewhat on track.  Spoilers abound.)

I didn't think that I was familiar with Thomas Berger.  But I do believe that I read Arthur Rex some years ago and enjoyed it.  And I'm familiar with Little Big Man.  So I didn't discover a new-to-me-author as I'd initially thought that I had.

Adventures of the Artificial Woman was located in the science fiction section.  So I was ready to suspend a good deal of disbelief.  But the author lost me on page twenty-seven.  I'm not kidding.  Page twenty-seven.  That's really early in a novel that runs just shy of two hundred pages.

The subject matter of the novel is easily summed up by the very first sentence.  "Never having found a real woman with whom he could sustain more than temporary connection, Ellery Pierce, a technician at a firm that made anamatronic creatures for movie studios and theme parks, decided to fabricate one from scratch."  Well, actually, I suppose that statement is erroneous, as Phyllis is complete almost immediately.  And just as immediately strikes out on her own.  'Round about page twenty-eight or twenty-nine.  So, really, the book covers her emancipation and life on her own, her reunion with the man who built her and what they do once they're back together again.


The way the novel is written, life is pretty much exactly how it is in real life, except for the building of an anamatronic woman - which put the book soundly into the sci-fi section of the library.  And then, on page twenty-seven, it all kind of goes to hell.  I suppose that the author intended for his readers to be as surprised as his protagonist by the realization that *other* people had anamatronic spouses, too...but it didn't work for me.  I felt like I was being asked to suspend a WHOLE LOT of disbelief when it turned out that all of the spouses invited to a dinner party turned out to be robots masquerading as human.  Granted, the dinner party consisted of two other couples, but it kind of read as if the three of them were pretty much the ONLY other robot spouses out there, so that they were also the next door neighbor and gym buddy of Pierce was a bit too much of a stretch for me.

So, I was ready to pitch the book out the window before I got to page thirty.  I grudgingly decided to give the author a little bit longer to redeem himself, but I realized after finishing the book that'd I'd felt mistrustful the rest of the read.  And I stopped half-way through the last chapter to tell Richard that I felt like I was about to be set up for something ridiculous again at the end of the book.  That didn't quite happen, but I was left feeling pretty lukewarm about the whole thing.

The premise was interesting enough, but neither of the two main characters was sympathetic.  In Phyllis's case, I suppose that makes sense.  But Pierce wasn't strong enough or likeable enough or much-of-anything enough for me to really care much about what happened to him.


I'm not really irritated that I spent the time reading the novel but I'm probably not going to search out another book by the same author anytime soon.

Better luck next time, I hope.

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