Review: Willful Machines by Tim Floreen (2015)

“As my datelike thing with Nico drew closer, the fears careening around in my head multiplied. What if Nico got flirty again? What if he didn’t get flirty again?”

Willful Machines, Tim Floreen

Rating: ★★★
Genre: Science fiction, YA
Categories: M/M, futuristic, robots

Content Warnings (highlight to read): Some terms & references to race that were… cause for pause. White mc calling himself ‘Kamikaze Lee,’ exoticising the love interest, etc.

Description: Equal parts romance and sci-fi thriller, Willful Machines is the story of the closeted son of the US president unraveling an elaborate plot involving robots & artificial intelligence… while also falling in love with the new boy at school. (And I think you can see where this is going, but I’m not going to outright spoil it for you).

“In the near future, scientists create what may be a new form of life: an artificial human named Charlotte. All goes well until Charlotte escapes, transfers her consciousness to the Internet, and begins terrorizing the American public.”

Impression: I really wanted to love this book more than I did! In the end, I wouldn’t discourage anybody from reading it (especially if you really want your queer robot romance fix), but it was more wistful thinking than satisfying substance. Although it’s YA, it reads on the younger side, and the prose was a bit ‘clunky.’ I did feel some fondness for the characters, but the romance was very love-at-first sight and happened very quickly: the pacing and characterization would have been better-served and more believable with more build-up.

In the end, I wanted to read a story about what this book was about (robots and robot feelings, queer romance, robot-building nerds, a diverse cast, a complicated thriller mystery storyline, copious Shakespeare references) but the book itself wasn’t what I wanted it to be.

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