Richard Abbott's Reviews > Automaton

Automaton by C.L. Davies
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really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction

Automaton is set in a not-too-distant future, where a particularly real reality show dominates everyday life. The plot line owes something to "The Truman Show", but is handled in an original manner by author Cheryl Davies. Unlike that film, there is much more equal focus on the lives of "outside" people as well as the "insiders", together with the ways in which these parallel worlds cross over. The nature of the show itself is also a little different, as becomes obvious as you read.

The story certainly got me thinking, and both the basic premise and the particular outworking were gripping. I liked the book, and would happily recommend it to anyone who likes to read speculative fiction about the near future. Like me, you will probably end up wondering who the automaton of the title is - a couple of characters are the obvious choice, but there are others too, and the inside-outside mirroring is part of the skill of the book.

That said, I had a few reservations. I would have liked the language style to be a bit richer. This is a purely personal thing and many would disagree with me, but I prefer a bit more ornament in the music of prose. Also, I wasn't convinced by the portrayal of the IT team members who appear part way through. I work day after day with people of many diverse IT skills, and I could not recognise any of them in the book. Unlike most of the other characters, these workers seemed to be drawn from rather stock geeky stereotypes - maybe they were supposed to be the automata!

Finally - and I suppose not unlike 'The Truman Show' - the reality show world is a very idealised happy place. Cruelty is present only as a very occasional interruption into a benign existence (other than the institutionalised cruelty of the whole show, arguably). The occupants seem to fear cruel and vicious deeds as basically irrational and demonic in origin, as well as extremely rare. However, the present-day soap operas with enduring popularity are often those with quite high levels of violence, intrigue, and betrayal (I'm thinking East Enders here, but there are others too). I strongly suspect that multi-player online games are rarely distinguished by such consistently generous acts of kindness! So I'm not quite convinced by the utopian qualities of the "insiders" life.

But these are relatively minor quibbles, and the story as a whole is well worth getting involved with. Four stars from me.

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