3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Victor Westbrook is a brilliant artificial intelligence expert whose life gets turned upside down when his wife and son, Claire and Ryan, die in an accident. This fuels his intellectual drive even further as he begins hatching a plan to reunite the family. In the process, Victor creates RyN2, a highly advanced robot with Ryan’s appearance and personality. After getting entangled in a complicated and dangerous web of plots and conspiracies, will he manage to reach his goals? And what happens when the real Ryan turns out to be alive years later?
Brian Kacica’s Ryan's Robot is an ambitious science fiction novel with a complex plot and a myriad of interesting themes: what does it mean to be human? Who can we trust to handle advanced technology and the power it brings? Is artificial intelligence a curse or a blessing? The book explores these and many other questions through a story filled with unique characters and developments that leave you at the edge of your seat.
One of the novel's most remarkable aspects is how the plot manages to be grand and contained at the same time. Although the events have far-reaching consequences that can affect the entire world, they mostly take place in a seemingly normal beach community called Chimera. This allows the writer to play with complicated plotlines while fleshing out the city and its inhabitants, making the reader feel more emotionally invested in this world.
Complexity is the story’s strongest asset but also its greatest enemy. While I love the plot in theory, as it involves military secrets, powerful corporations, spies, and even underworld thugs, the execution could use some work. There’s nothing wrong with employing mysteries and complicated scenarios, but you still have to make sure the reader can at least follow the plot. I had to reread several passages to figure out what was going on, and even now I’m uncertain about some things. An example of confusing storytelling is how the story jumps from the past to the present, then back to the past, and then many years into the future, all without clearing up when exactly these events take place.
Though there are many interesting characters, there are also too many characters in general, so few get much development. The reader is also likely to keep asking the same question several times: “Wait, who’s that again?” Ryan is a particularly unfortunate case, as he’s a charismatic yet troubled individual with a lot of potential for psychological exploration. These possibilities are wasted as he disappears for several chapters and, after showing up again, doesn’t develop any further; his issues have apparently been dealt with already, without the reader knowing when or how. I did enjoy RyN2’s relationship with Mia and how he tried to discover his humanity, though the way things ended felt a bit unsatisfying.
Ryan's Robot can be an overwhelming read at times and the characters don’t reach their fullest potential, but it’s still a solid science fiction novel that should please fans of the genre. It’s also exceptionally edited, as I’ve only found three minor punctuation errors, so my final rating is 3 out of 4 stars. There are plenty of profanities, making the book unsuitable for very young audiences (who likely wouldn’t understand much of the plot anyway). I also don’t recommend it if you hate complex narratives with many storylines.
View: on Bookshelves