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No summary could do The Mad Scientist’s Daughter justice. Look up there. That is an awful summary. I don’t want to read that book. That makes the story look like it’s about Finn and the fight for robot rights. Now, those are certainly in the book, but The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is about Caterina Novak, Cat for short, growing, learning, changing, learning she’s changed in the wrong ways, and growing some more. It’s about love and loss and death and life and humanity. It has more in common with David Nicholls’ One Day than Asimov's I, Robot.
The book is divided into 3 parts, Cat’s childhood, young adult, and adult lives. When Cat is five, her father brings home a strange man whom Cat thinks is a ghost. He is, in fact, Finn, a mysterious android who her father adamantly did NOT create, but will be staying with them. Through Cat's childhood, she and Finn bond as he becomes her tutor and later her best friend. Cat’s parents, reclusive scientists, fear she’s becoming too close to Finn and needs more human companionship. They are right.
For a book that deals with a lot of ethical questions regarding humanity and servitude, it really does gloss over the complete inappropriateness of a girl falling in love with an authority figure she’s known since she was five. From puberty until her late thirties, Cat lusts after Finn and the feelings are returned. It makes the first sex scene pretty icky, particularly due to Cat’s emotional state at the time. That’s not to say their love wasn’t sweet or hot, but there’s always an undercurrent of inappropriateness that no one but Cat’s mom comments on.
Cat undergoes a lot of trauma over the years and it doesn’t make her a very nice person. She is selfish, unhappy, and deeply flawed. Basically from high school until the last hundred pages, I didn’t like her at all. But, unlike many other books with unlikeable protagonists, I felt like her final redemption was well earned. She seemed to want to change, understand why she was wrong, and came to it in a believable way. I read the last section, her thirties, though a non stop wash of tears as every bad thing that can happen to a person came to pass. Even the ending is heart-breakingly bittersweet. Some parts do feel a little manipulative and, again, Finn and Cat’s last love scene has an icky undercurrent, but so much of the writing is beautiful, it’s easy to give the flaws a pass.