Book Review: “A Robot In The Garden” by Deborah Install

Warning: If you have not read “A Robot In The Garden” by Deborah Install, do not read this review if you don’t want spoilers!

I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “A Robot In The Garden” by Deborah Install! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

A story of the greatest friendship ever assembled.

Ben Chambers wakes up to find something rusty and lost underneath the willow tree in his garden. Refusing to throw it on the skip as his wife Amy advises, he takes it home.”

This was definitely an interesting book in terms of concept, though I feel like the plot was a little too predictable in its execution. What basically happens is that Ben finds a robot in the back garden named Tang, and ends up going all around the world to find out where Tang came from. There is also a subplot involving Ben’s failed romance (and later rekindled) with his wife Amy, and there are quite a few flashbacks to his and Amy’s relationship as of how they met, how they got together, and how their relationship failed, with Ben wondering what he could do better.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, the book was incredibly predictable in terms of plot, and also a bit slow to read. They find the owner, the owner turns out to be kind of evil, they escape the owner, and the main character gets back together with Amy at the end. The only plot twist that really came to mind for me was the fact that Amy had been pregnant the whole time, hence why she had been at such tension with Ben in the first place. I think the book’s predictable plot could be summed up in terms of the writing style. Part of me feels like it did a lot more ‘telling’ than ‘showing,’ and this basically ruined most plot twists except for Amy’s pregnancy.

A lot of the characters in this book aren’t very interesting to read, and serve as plot points for Ben and Tang’s journey in the book rather than being fleshed out beings, even with what backstory and personality traits they have. Even Amy feels a bit like a plot point than her own character, despite her and Ben being husband and wife that nearly divorce but end up coming back together again.

A lot of the book has a lot of self-reflection involved, as well as some ethics regarding the sentiency of AI. Because of this, the plotline can be a little slow, but it’s easy to read as well. Tang and Ben’s growing friendship throughout the book was the strongest element, with Tang becoming more and more sentient over time throughout their travels, while Ben gets to learn what it means to kind of care for a robot that’s kind of like a child. By the end of the book, it’s heartwarming to see that Tang is considered as part of Ben and Amy’s family along with their newborn child.

Overall, I’m rating this book 2.5 out of 5 stars for the predictable and somewhat slow plot.

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