Friday, June 13, 2008

Book Review: The Automatic Detective, by A. Lee Martinez

The Automatic Detective, by A. Lee Martinez

The Runaway Robot, by Lester del Rey, is a children's book about a self aware and likeable robot. It is probably still my favorite book today. Consequently, I tend to measure all robot books by it. But not all robot books are cut from the same roll of paper.

Mack Megaton, the robot hero of The Automatic Detective, is a robot who was designed to take over the world, but defied his programming, and, due to a "Free Will Glitch," is now on probation to becoming a full citizen of Empire City, weird home of mutants, strange vehicles, and robots galore. He also had a cynical streak a mile wide, and no real fit for his huge strength and drive. When his neighbors get disappeared, he makes it his mission to recover them. A sentient gorilla pal and a poor-little-rich inventor are there to help.

With any book, you have the possibility of the "Yeah, right" factor, or when your willing suspension of disbelief fails. That happened to me a couple of times while reading this -- with the idea that "mutagens" could transform someone into a mutant, as quickly as overnight (although there turned out to be a slightly better explanation for this than it at first appeared), the talking gorilla, and the rich girl who apparently has a crush on Our Robot Hero.

But, while the Yeah Right factor hit me a couple of times, it couldn't hit hard enough to stop me reading. I actually put down the book a couple of times with the thought, "Well, I don't know if I'll finish that." But I discovered something: I wanted to find out what happened. So, despite my quibbles, I could barely stop reading.

I got a hellish headache that day (cause unknown), and I couldn't stop reading. I was up past my bedtime, and I could barely stop reading (and only then after I skimmed ahead to see how it would end).

In conclusion, A. Lee Martinez is not the next Raymond Chandler (who is?), but he could certainly keep those pages turning. And if there was a sequel to this book, I would want to read it. Right now.

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