Saturday, April 29, 2023

Review: In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune

In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Dystopian/Sci-Fi 
In the Lives of Puppets cover
ISBN: 9781250217448
Release Date: April 25, 2023
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

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?

What makes us human? What makes us more than the base we are created to be? TJ Klune asks these questions and more in the fantastical dystopian adventure, In the Lives of Puppets. This book is inspired by Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio, but there are bits of Frankenstein, Wall-E, and more, brought together and added upon by Klune’s unique voice and characters.

In a strange home built among the trees lives a unique family: inventor android Giovanni Lawson, an anxiety-ridden vacuum named Rambo, sadistic medical robot Nurse Ratched, and Victor Lawson, a human inventor. When Vic discovers an android among the scrap yards, he brings him back to life. HAP (or Hysterically Angry Puppet) has a past hunting humans, but can he be more than his programming? When Gio is taken by the Authority, Vic, Hap, Rambo, and Nurse Ratched must venture far beyond the forest and rely on each other to survive.

Klune weaves in love in all its forms in this book. Love can be pure and it can be horribly complex, filled with strings. Questions of forgiveness, redemption, and what makes us human, alive, and more than our parts rise over and over again. There’s a lot to like about In the Lives of Puppets. For all its points of inspiration it still feels like a unique book and the world building is top-notch. The characters are all complicated and well-drawn; I defy anyone to read this and not fall in love with Rambo, the chatty, utterly endearing vacuum I wish were real because I’d want to adopt him. The adventures our protagonists take reveal the characters complexities and I’d hate to spoil the journey of discovery by talking about it to much. That being said, as much as I enjoyed the individual parts of In the Lives of Puppets, I struggled with putting a rating on the story. I have loved other books of Klune’s and have been dazzled by his prose and characters. This book wasn’t as engaging as some of his others; in fact, it was quite slow and I had no trouble putting it down. The world was well-drawn but didn’t suck me in the way other worlds of his have (perhaps because of all the references to other works) and that was hard for me to forget.

Even though it wasn’t the most compelling of Klune’s work for me, I still overall recommend In the Lives of Puppets. The message is strong and well-delivered, the characters endearing, and the story overall beautiful and bittersweet.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.