Miranda Reads's Reviews > Uncanny Valley

Uncanny Valley by C.A. Gray
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2.5 stars
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Great premise, lukeworm execution

I loved the concept! Rebecca Cordeaux, an undergraduate working in a research lab, lives in a world where robots have taken over just about everything. On purpose

Robots do the menial tasks, the high precision tasks and all of the tasks humans just don't want to do...only there's nothing really left for humans to do (well, besides highly specific and creative tasks).

But lately, there's been a push to grant robots creativity through a rudimentary system and soon, the world begins pushing back.
“You’re afraid that if the bots get creativity…”
“They’ll become superintelligent, way surpassing humans!”
To keep my review succinct, I will focus on the two things that stood out to me the most: The characters and the science.

The Characters: AKA it's a love-hate sorta thing

I absolutely freaking adored some of the side-characters. In paticular, Madeline, a foot-tall companion bot was my favorite. She was a darling through and through.
“I would die for you, Rebecca.” My heart swelled, but then she added, “That is the extreme of what I am programmed for.”
The author did a great job humanizing the little companion bot and ever scene I saw her in just made my heart happy. I actually liked her more than the main characters!

Which leads me to...Rebecca...

As a main character, she came very close to ruining the book for me. She's just incredibly full of herself - not in the holier-than-thou way, but more of a Mary-Sue-can't-do-anything-wrong way.
I gasped out the last few notes of my big solo, belting my heart out, my arms stretched up to either side of the stage. I could feel my voice hit the back wall, and I knew I sounded breathtaking.
Rebecca just absolutely excels at every single aspect of her life - she's amazing at theater, has a promising creative writing career and manages to work science projects detailed enough for several PhD's all while balancing her undergrad courses.

It's just...come on. Really?

In addition, Rebecca's the smartest dumb girl I've ever read.

While the author does not leave her flawless, the flaws that are bestowed upon precious Rebecca are the kind that are painfully obvious plants.

For example, she's an absolute genius in everything...but romance.

There's plenty of cases but my favorite is when the hot post-doc visits her after hours, she decides to make him a meal:
“You’re going to boil the chicken?” he asked at last, watching me prep.
“Yes.”
When you have a direct line to the net in your brain...how do you come up with a good ol' chicken boil for the hot-totally-not-a-date? How is boiling the chicken even an instinct??

The Science AKA well, I guess my eye-twitch is back.

I did enjoy most of the futuristic aspects C.A. Gray added to her books - such as the robot economy, the prevalence of bots in their world, and the AI implanted in people's brains. However, I feel like the author stretched too far.

To give some context, I have spent years in lab for my "real-world job."

As someone who intimately knows and understands science, this book was a bust (and no, you cannot use the hand-wavy-it's-the-fuuuuture shtick to explain away every flaw).

For example, Rebecca, our mild-mannered genius, is able (AS AN UNDERGDRAD) to come up with this:
My thesis is on the possible neuropeptide of human desire.
I am not denying that undergrads can (and do!) absolutely amazing things in labs...but they are undergrads.

They are learning.

They are not given free reign for complex neurological pathways with minor (and I do mean minor) monitoring and even if they were, what is with the vague and all-encompassing project?

That is the sort of motivation you might see for an entire lab, not for one undergrad's four-year-project.

Honestly, it felt like author strung together sciency-sounding stuff whenever she talked about Rebecca's project.
I… was thinking we’d recruit people who had been through five or more years of therapy,” I whispered back, “so that they could succinctly identify their core motivations—that would be analogous to the core purpose of the bots—and also their deepest unmet desires. Then we’d design Artificial Experience scenarios in which their desires could come true, but only if they violate their core motivations.
Now, if you've managed to read the entire word-vomit experiment, you'll notice how...incredibly vague both her premise and her experiment seemed.

It just doesn't have the depth to make it even remotely possible - yet all of the other characters were nodding in awe.

And then...I got to this quote:
“Some decades ago, there was a theory that a weak acid like hydrochloric might be able to artificially produce ATP…”

I shook my head. “What’s ATP?”
To put this into context, for a neuro student not to know what ATP is (DESPITE RUNNING COMPLEX BRAIN EXPERIMENTS!!) is the equivalent to an artist asking "Sooo....what's acrylic again?" or for a carpenter to say, "Whew. Never heard of a hammer before."

And to that, I throw up my hands.

Ultimately - this book had a lot of promise and I really did love aspects (Madeline, you are literally the best robot ever!!) but I think including so much poorly-written science detail and completely (and obnoxiously) over-powering the main character took this book down a few notches.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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message 1: by Wilmar (new)

Wilmar Luna Although I do understand that writing science is difficult, that's no excuse for an author to be sloppy with their research. The author does not have to become an expert on neuroscience, but they should at least have a very basic understanding of how neuroscience works and the hierarchy of who studies what. That way, the author can at least make it sound believable instead of realistic.

Generally, unless the science is absolutely critical to the plot, it's best for the author to gloss over it and not try to explain the science in detail. And if it is critical to the plot, then the author needs to do a massive amount of research to understand what the heck they're talking about.

Great review, Miranda!


Miranda Reads Definitely agree that writing science is hard.

But here's the kicker - the author is a scientist (or at least she got a degree in a neuro area) which leads me to believe that she was either A) really bad at explaining science or B) really bad at dumbing it down for a layman audience.

But perhaps all of the glaring issues/errors I saw wouldn't seem so bad to someone not in the science field? It's a bit hard to tell (after all, all of the robot things made sense to me, but perhaps they would be errors as big as the ATP thing for someone in the robotics field)...


message 3: by Wilmar (new)

Wilmar Luna That is definitely a BIG kicker and honestly, it doesn't make sense. As the old saying goes, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

It has been in my experience that the general audience is a little more forgiving when it comes to inaccurate details. I mean, the movie Top Gun drives me nuts with how inaccurate it is but it's still fun to watch.

But regardless of whether the science was accurate or not. That doesn't excuse having a Mary Sue for a main character. That alone is a big no-no. E.G. Rey from Star Wars.


message 4: by KAS (new)

KAS Sorry the science aspect of this book did not work for you, Miranda :( Fantastic review!! xox


message 5: by Holly (new)

Holly I'm not in science, but even I know what ATP is (thank you long ago high school biology class). So yeah, that's weird to purposely make a supposedly super smart character not know what that is.


Miranda Reads Wilmar wrote: "That is definitely a BIG kicker and honestly, it doesn't make sense. As the old saying goes, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

It has been in my experience tha..."


Lol. Definitely agree. Its a huge pet peeve!


Miranda Reads KAS wrote: "Sorry the science aspect of this book did not work for you, Miranda :( Fantastic review!! xox"

Thank you :) :)


Miranda Reads Holly wrote: "I'm not in science, but even I know what ATP is (thank you long ago high school biology class). So yeah, that's weird to purposely make a supposedly super smart character not know what that is."

It was unbelievably frustrating!


message 9: by Julia (new)

Julia Ash Great review, Miranda!


Miranda Reads Thank you Julia :)


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