Troofriend by Kirsty Applebaum
|Troofriend by Kirsty Applebaum|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Alex Mitchell|
|Summary: A really well-written story about personhood, friendship and the damage caused by paranoia, it almost feels like it could've been written by Isaac Asimov.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 224||Date: April 2020|
|Publisher: Nosy Crow Ltd.|
Are you tired of your child's classmates constantly being horrible to them? Do you want your child to have some positive experiences with people? Introducing the new Jenson & Jenson Troofriend 560 Mark IV android! These state-of-the-art machines are capable of emulating the full range of human emotions without lying, stealing or bullying. They're the perfect companion for any child! Any mention that these androids are beginning to develop real human feelings are just unsubstantiated rumours and have absolutely no basis in reality…right?
The book is written in a very interesting way. Ivy's voice is very child-like, with lots of run-on sentences and simplistic grammar, which suggests that she is still a relatively young android, which is also combined with a very formal, literal way of speaking that seems to be common to most depictions of AIs and androids. Any new words that Ivy has learned are italicised and dropped into the sentences; reading through it almost reminds me of those automated messages that you get while waiting for a call. Her speech isn't marked by speech marks, but instead is in bold lettering, which is certainly a little odd, but interesting nonetheless. The chapter breaks occur when Ivy is either turned off or powers herself down. When she starts feeling human emotions, her speech starts stuttering and she has to send an error message to Jenson & Jenson. It's an interesting and unique way of depicting how a machine developing sentience may work.
The story is told from the point of view of Ivy, an android made by Jenson & Jenson. She was bought to keep Sarah, a regular primary school girl worried about regular primary school girl things, company. Sarah initially doesn't like Ivy, but over the course of the book she slowly warms up to her and almost comes to see her as a sister. This is in contrast to her Mum, Shirley, who seems quite highly strung and easily falls prey to the mass hysteria surrounding androids supposedly rebelling against their masters. It doesn't seem to affect her Dad, Rob, a rather grumpy man who seems to be feeling nostalgic for the 80s, before all this new-fangled technology came around.
While the writing is very good and the characters are solid, the setting feels a little under-used. Despite having sophisticated robotics and artificial intelligence, the technology level seems to be more-or-less the same as the modern day. There are a couple of lines near the beginning of the book about androids being used for some tasks, but other than that, Ivy doesn't interact with any of them, which feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. People still tend to use mobile phones, and while VR headsets are mentioned in the story, they're mostly treated as something only very wealthy people can use. Because of the growing problem of more and more androids becoming sentient, some people are protesting them being treated as machines rather than people. While admittedly this book is more about Ivy's growing awareness of her own humanity and less about the setting, this still does make the book feel a little off.
Overall, this is a well-written story about sentience, personhood and the damage mass hysteria can bring about on a family.
Similar books by other authors:
Robot Girl by Malorie Blackman – a similar story about accepting a robot for who she is, for dyslexic readers.
You can read more book reviews or buy Troofriend by Kirsty Applebaum at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Troofriend by Kirsty Applebaum at Amazon.com.
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