Page File It all sounds like a beautiful love story. A man in forbidden love with an android robot sets out on a quest to find and reassemble her after she’s kidnapped and stripped down for parts. But Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is a gruesome, grotesque noir story of a dismal future, where half of the world is considered disposable by the other half.
Set – where else? – in LA, Judd Trichter’s debut novel mixes noir classics – the old good cop and his brash new sidekick, the man on the path of vengeance, lots of sexualised and graphic violence – with a typical dystopian future of robots and societal breakdown.
Eliot Lazar is the man in love with a spinner, so-called because of their clockwork hearts, and so desperate after she’s torn down for a quick buck that he embarks on a potentially lethal campaign of more than dubious morality to get her back.
But this is not an unthinking ride through blood-spattered streets. What makes Eliot interesting is that he knows his quest is amoral and he spends a lot of time wondering if it’s all worth it. People say they’d do anything for love, but Eliot really does do anything for the love of Iris and there’s more than a question mark over what that does to Eliot and Iris.
It’s pretty clear at the start of the book who the good guys and the bad guys are. The good guys are those who reckon androids deserve something close to equal rights and the bad guys are the users and abusers of robots who treat them worse than toasters.
But as the book progresses, those lines get blurred until even Eliot is willing to try to use the differences between heartbeats and spinners as an excuse to get what he wants:
“After all, bots aren’t like us. They don’t feel pain the way we do. Their hearts don’t beat, they spin. They don’t have souls, just parts and experiences that balance together to create an aura.”
This is particularly true when Eliot is taking back parts of Iris that have gone to other bots. Because of the kind of android she is, her personality won’t exist unless she’s made up of the same parts, replacements won’t do. However, when her parts go into the same kind of robot, removing them effectively kills that new personality too. Eliot wants to believe that he’s the romantic hero, but that image suffers more and more as the quest goes on.
There are huge questions here, about love, oppression and what it means to be a person, that Trichter dances around, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions. There’s also a hell of a lot of Grand Theft Auto/LA noir style sex and violence that just about scrapes past being gratuitous and an entertaining dash around dystopian future Los Angeles that keeps you guessing until the end about whether Eliot will succeed in his quest or not – or whether he should. ®
Title Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Publisher St Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne/Macmillan
Release date 3 February (UK/US)
Price £17.14 (Hardback)
More info Publisher’s website