"Cat, this is Finn. He's going to be your tutor".
He looks, and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task now is to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion... and more. But when the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Fin struggles to find his place in the world.
Told over the span of years, we watch as Cat grows up with a brilliant AI as a tutor and best friend, and Finn never changes. Until, of course, he does. While Cat tries to manage this strange relationship alongside her human life, the world is also trying to find a place for the growing AI population.
I wasn't sure what I expected from this but I definitely did not expect it to be purely from Cat's perspective. This didn't offer Finn's thoughts on anything, only what he offered up, but as he was not technically human, it was a subtle commentary that he was not worthy of having thoughts at all. It was also interesting to read Cat's interpretation of Finn's actions. Their relationship was sometimes difficult to navigate and I did feel sorry for both of them, as neither understood what was growing between them.
Cat was a very strange character. More robotic in many ways than Finn, she was difficult to understand; growing up with only a robot tutor for company, I am not surprised she turned out to have emotional distance in her relationships in later life. God, I adored Finn. He started with simple and monotonous replies but you could tell he grew and learned from the world around him. And even though, in Cat's head you knew she really liked him, I'm not sure I approved of the way she used him. It took her a while but in the end she realised that was what she was doing to him and it wasn't fair to either of them.
The world gave us a glimpse at a very likely, robot-driven future, where AI was so sophisticated, humans and robots alike were campaigning for robot rights. It was a haunting emotional read, debated what makes us human and how wide the distinction was between us and them. And amongst that, it was a sweet and telling story of first love. Clarke doesn't rush anything, letting years pass and pieces come together naturally for Cat and Finn's possibility of a happily ever after.
Published 29th January 2013 by Angry Robot. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.