Robots in Disguise – Replica by Jack Heath

replicaI was looking forward to reading this book, but I fear it may have been dammed by my high expectations. It shares many similar characteristics with one of my favourite books ever, Genesis by Bernard Beckett. Both books are short, about artificial intelligence and aimed at a YA audience. Both are written by antipodean authors. One is a truly extraordinary analysis of the boundaries of sentience and artificial intelligence, the other is Replica.

To give Replica it’s due, it does play with the idea of whether AI is alive. If something can feel pain, but can’t be killed, is it ethical to hurt it? If a person’s memories are distilled into a computer that can still behave and think like a human being, is that person still alive, or is the Robot somebody different? There is also a very touching question asked at the end of the novel, which I can’t reveal, but it gave the story a strong emotional conclusion. Added to that is an interesting storyline:- Chloe has been created by Chloe to protect Chloe’s family from whoever it is who’s after Chloe.

Yes it’s that sort of novel. Who is human, who is robot, and why are Chloe and her family being chased? Something to do with government defence. It’s a high-powered blockbuster plot, with a couple of great filmic set pieces.

The problem is, it just didn’t feel believable. Perhaps it’s because I’m way over the target age of the audience, but I just didn’t feel the world would operate in the way Chloe’s does. The daring do, and escapades are exciting but to me seemed implausible, so I found it difficult to fully buy into them. Things worked how they needed to work in the world of the novel, and not how they would in the real world. This was rounded off by a very dubious final escape, which snapped my overstretched credulity. Though it WAS exciting…

I feel that in having read Bernard Beckett’s novel, I’ve destroyed any chance of enjoying Replica. Genesis is philosophically more interesting and its plot is seamless. Everything works and is logically consistent. With Replica there are too many cracks in the veneer and it spoils the overall effect of the novel. This is in no way a bad novel, but for me, it doesn’t stretch much beyond OK.

Ultimately this isn’t so much a review of Replica but a lament that it isn’t Genesis, which seems mightily unfair on Jack Heath. Lots of people have enjoyed Replica, so you shouldn’t take my word alone. Why not read both Genesis, and Replica? Authors need all the exposure they can get. If you do so though, read Replica first it’s the fairest thing to do.

This book was sent to me as part of the Amazon Vine Programme. 

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