In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune
A tremendous thanks to NetGalley and Tor Books for my advanced reader copy of In the Lives of Puppets (though it is available now).
In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots–fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe.
The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio – a past spent hunting humans.
When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.
Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?
Author TJ Klune invites you deep into the heart of a peculiar forest and on the extraordinary journey of a family assembled from spare parts.
I am such a big TJ Klune fan. The House in the Cerulean Sea has a prime spot on my bookshelf with some of my other favorite books of all time. I stole Under the Whispering Door from some poor new woman at our book club holiday book exchange (it was white elephant style…I’m not an actual thief). My hands practically flew across my keyboard when I saw the opportunity to get In the Lives of Puppets early.
What a LETDOWN.
One thing that is amazing about TJ Klune is his representation of the LGBTQ+ community. In the Lives of Puppets was no different. It was mentioned very early on that the main character, Vic, identifies as asexual. That is something I’m not as familiar with, so I just rolled with it. For the record, this was not my issue with the book.
Vic is the last of the humans (this is “revealed” later on in the book, but if you didn’t see it coming, I would be surprised), living amongst a lot of robots or androids or whatever the best term is. In fact, there were robots whose sole job it was to rid the world of humans. Thus, Vic is a real anomaly.
However, as a whole, In the Lives of Puppets just kind of felt lost. You couldn’t feel the real motivation behind the plot. It’s not like Klune’s other books were super plot-driven, but it felt…better. This book has a “cross country” (from Oregon to Las Vegas) trip that takes place in a house that floats? It was just too many weird things that didn’t come together well enough to be accepted as fantasy like The Night Circus or the Shades of Magic series.
NEXT PARAGRAPH IS A SPOILER, SO READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION.
With all of this being said, my main issue with the book was that Vic falls in love with Hap. Now, I get representation, but a human falling in love with a robot? That was one step too far for me. It just took the book out of the realm of being believable, but also not far enough for it to be accepted.
Unfortunately, I would not recommend In the Lives of Puppets. Generally, I would just skip a review of a book I don’t recommend, but I don’t want others to be let down the same way I was. Just looking out for you guys.
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