Greg Spry's Reviews > Charlie Robot

Charlie Robot by Benedict Martin
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really liked it

Overall, I enjoyed this story about a pessimistic scientist who gets stuck having to pretend he's the first artificially intelligent android.

The prose and dialog flowed very well. I whipped through the pages almost as quickly as my fingers could swipe to the next one on my phone. I appreciated how the author avoided info dumps, used straightforward language, and kept things moving at a brisk pace. The viewpoint was also done well. I got a clear sense of the main character's identity and felt his frustration from the way he saw the world around him. Charlie certainly had his flaws and vices.

Based on the different book covers and marketing I'd seen for the novel, I was expecting a comedy, but the story read more like a light-hearted drama about how Charlie playing the part of a robot affected his psyche. In that sense, the novel has a little bit of a literary quality to it.

The book has a handful of twists in which the author tries to keep the reader guessing. While I think he did a good job, I figured things out less than a third of the way into the story. This kept me from being wowed by the big reveal at the end. Thus, I might have preferred that the author either not drop as many early clues as he did or interject a few contradictory hints to throw me off. That said, I did find myself questioning what I thought I'd figured out later on in the story, if only briefly. Ultimately, the scene-to-scene intrigue held my attention enough that my having figured out the plot didn't detract too much from my enjoyment.

My biggest issue with the story had to do with the believability of this average guy as an android. The author did not sell me on this premise, which was a fairly important aspect of the story. Early in the book, investors and other interested parties failed to ask enough of the obvious questions. If someone introduced me to an android who looked exactly like a person, my skepticism would immediately kick in, and I'd ask him to detach his arm, open the compartment in his chest, or do something else to prove his authenticity beyond any doubt. The author eventually dealt with these questions later on in the story, but they needed to be addressed sooner.

As a work of soft science fiction, the book didn't include any sort of explanation how researchers were able to create an artificial being indistinguishable from a human in what seemed like present day or the very near future (the author never mentions a date, which is just as well). Explanations weren't required or necessary for readers to enjoy the story, so the lack of scientific explanation wasn't any problem. Personally, though, I thought some additional world-building might've helped to sell the feat. If the author had set the story a little bit further in the future and included things like advanced prosthetics and smarter machines as a part of every day life, the creation of a sentient android might have seemed more plausible. Hollywood has spun plenty of tales about artificial intelligence achieving consciousness in modern times, but it's going to be some time yet before it happens in reality.

To take the tension and intrigue up another notch, I felt the author could've set some scenes in more interesting locations and had Charlie perform more amazing feats. Too many events in too many stories in general take place in restaurants, coffee shops, parties, and in people's homes or places of business. As a reader, I want to be whisked away from the hum-drum to exotic locales. And to better sell Charlie as an android, I wanted him to be bending steel bars or destroying human geniuses at chess. But of course Charlie is just pretending to be an android, so how could he be shown to seemingly perform superhuman feats when he's only human? That would take some cleverness!

All in all, Charlie Robot was an entertaining read. It's a story that most anyone would enjoy, and I recommend it.

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Reading Progress

October 1, 2015 – Started Reading
October 31, 2015 – Shelved
October 31, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
October 31, 2015 –
page 101
November 8, 2015 – Finished Reading

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