Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Judd Trichter (Thomas Dunne, Feb. 3rd, 2015)-I’m not sure how eager I’d be to live in the future that Judd Trichter depicts in his new book. Robots are the norm, and while some are free roamers, most work for humans and the “life” of a free roamer is usually desperate and hardscrabble. Trichter’s LA is a dark and seamy place, and a former nannybot named Lorca is stirring up a revolution. No longer content to be slaves to humans, robots are rising up, and violence is at its peak. Amidst this darkness, however, there is a spot of light, and that’s in the love that Eliot Lazar has for his girlfriend, Iris Matsuo. They only have one problem: Iris is a bot, and Eliot is desperate to find a way to get to the island where his mother has retired, a place where human/bot couples are rumored to be accepted, and not seen as an abomination, but first he’s got to wrap a few things up. He needs a boat, and his brother comes through on that front, but before he can tell Iris the wonderful news of their impending escape, he discovers she’s been kidnapped and sold for parts. Now it’s time to put Iris together again, but it’s not going to be easy, and he begins to wonder, as he tracks down each of her parts, if the sacrifice will be worth it. Will Iris even be the same? On his trail is a dying and dogged detective that has nothing to lose, who comes into play when Eliot delves into some dark, and very dangerous, territory.
If you think this feels like familiar territory, think again. Nearly everything about this book was unexpected, and the author plumbs some very, very dark depths. Eliot is a haunted man (with a drug addiction, to boot) who sells bots to work off-planet under horrible conditions, but reassures himself it’s a means to an end, one with Iris, far away from LA. He’s also a bit of a chimera himself, with a mechanical arm in place of the one he lost when his father, who was the creator of the first bots, and his sister, were killed. I suppose you could call this book akin to a high stakes treasure hunt, and in fact, the author begins each chapter after Iris is kidnapped with a list of her parts and they’re locations (as Eliot discovers them), and crosses them off after they’ve been found. The procurement of each part is harrowing, sometimes violent, and often a bit perverse. One of the best scenes takes place in a casino, with a very unusual prostitute (trust me, you’ll know what I’m talking about, and it’s as much fantastic and even comic, as it is utterly horrific.) As Eliot nears the end of his search, he starts to question whether it was worth it, whether the cost has been too high, and indeed, there are some absolutely heartbreaking moments in amongst the near constant action.
Think robots can’t break your heart? Trichter’s robots will, and compassion, in this novel, is not always a human trait. Yes, this is a cinematic novel, and there’s a ton of action (very, very creative action), but this is really a book about compassion, and acceptance, and the sometimes unimaginable lengths we’ll go to for love. It’s also about what makes us human, and the subjugation of others, those that can’t protect themselves, and what it says about us when we victimize them. You’ll find here that the bots aren’t the scary ones. Some scenes were very, very hard to read (keep an eye out for the one where he tracks down one of Iris’s legs), not because of violence, necessarily, but because of the heart wrenching kindness found in such unexpected places, sometimes in the midst of unspeakable cruelty. Also, keep an eye out for Tim, just one of the many unusual, and sometimes oddly delightful, characters that populate this fantastic novel (including Eliot’s brother, Shelley.) I think the only complaint about this book is that I wanted more of Tim. I felt a bit wrung out when I finished this book, but in the best possible way.
This book is already one of my favorite books of 2015, and I can honestly say, for fans of dark SF, this is an absolute must read, and an amazing debut.