A fantastic book with great characters and a central theme about life and freedom.
As it’s nearly Pride Month, I wanted to do another book review with an LGBT love interest and wasn’t disappointed with Willful Machines by Tim Floreen. (Yes, I double and tripled checked to see how many L’s are in the Will part and the ful part)
But, before I delve into the depths of this book, I just wanted to speak a little about a 40 year old man reading Young Adult literature. No, it’s not weird and here’s why...
1. I am an avid reader and normally have a few titles going at the same time. I’m in the middle of Swan Song by Robert McCammon which is a 1,000 page epic read about a post nuclear apocalypse belter based in America. It’s a heavy read and not something you finish in a couple of days. So, to have something on hand that is lighter and easier to read is great.
2. I’ve also a hectic lifestyle, but often have 20 minutes to spare at lunchtime, sitting in the car waiting for the hubby to finish shopping or in between things, so a YA novel is also great for this.
3. And finally, I enjoy them and want to continue doing reviews which might encourage a teen to read one of my favourites.
However, another great reason to read YA books is if you haven’t had a good experience with reading in the past (bullied by teachers or parents), or are a slow reader, or find it difficult to concentrate on a really complicated story or don’t have a lot of time to spare, YA books are perfect. It’s like my mum used to say; she is now a retired primary school teacher and spent much of her career teaching learning support students...she encouraged them to read anything, that back of the cornflakes box, a magazine on your favourite hobby, a comic or graphic novel. She didn’t care what they were reading as long as they were reading something. So, if you see an adult reading children or YA books, don’t judge, instead strike up a conversation and share your love of books with them.
Think of a Harry Potter style world, an old school with eccentric teachers based in the future, but instead of having magic, everyone has access to some amazing technology. Floating prisms around their head that help with lesson plans; use to communicate with each other & see what’s happening in the world. There are little robots everywhere to carry-out all the mundane work like cleaning and CCTV cameras flitting around capturing students doing what they are bound to do (but shouldn’t of course).
The protagonist Lee Fisher is the closeted son of the US president. His granddad is also the school principal who knows EVERYTHING (as all teachers do). He is trying to have a normal life, under constant surveillance by his Secret Service detail and then develops a crush on Nico, the eccentric, Shakespeare-obsessed dishy new boy who just started in the school. But, oh no, things are more complicated than that, he has to hide his recent suicide attempt from Nico, navigate a potential new relationship and keep himself from freaking out from all his secrets.
With amazing technological advancements 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. During her escape she kills Lee’s mother. I'm reminded about the fab movie Ex-Machina, if you haven't seen it give it a go.
Lee now finds himself the target of Charlotte and we find out that Nico may be part of Charlotte’s plan too. As Lee races to save himself, uncover Charlotte’s plan, and figure out if he can trust Nico, he comes to a whole new understanding of what it means to be alive…and what makes life worth living.
I really enjoyed this book and will definitely stick it on my shelf to read again. It’s written really well, the characters are well rounded and developed. The author Tim Floreen does a fantastic job, I think, of describing the thought processes of a young teenage gay boy. Not that I can remember that far back to being a teenager, but I do remember until the age of about 25 obsessing about, over thinking and worrying about every little detail. This book resonated with me, the life of Lee Fisher’s was very similar to my own, one of being unsure and extremely unconfident and nervous. Or, maybe, it’s like that for every young person until they figure out what they want and are happy with the path they have chosen. I don’t have the answers to that one. I wonder is the book slightly biographical in nature?
More on the author HERE
The descriptive passages of the old crumbling school building, the landscape around & roaring waterfall under the school and all the technological marvels are brilliant, I can see and smell the surroundings and imagine the click-clack of the worker robot-spiders cleaning the floors. I really like the central theme of sentience and questioning what exactly is life. It’s not a unique topic, the story that springs straight to mind is Data’s journey in Star Trek but the author deals with it well from a fresh perspective.
Of course, (and maybe I’m reading more into it that Floreen’s intention) this main theme can also be seen as a commentary on slavery and equality. If we create sentient robots are they alive? Do we give them free will? If so can we then expect them to stay slaves? Do we give them rights? And then come full circle, this theme can also be a commentary on LGBT rights. With this central theme the book would be a great classroom novel.
Anyway, to get down to business. This is a well written book with characters you want to know more about. The future vision that Floreen gives us is plausible and exciting. I hope there will be a sequel to Willful Machines. The book is a little bit predictable so for this reason I’m giving it a 9 out of 10 planets.
Other LGBT books I have reviewed are
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde HERE
When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid HERE
Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green HERE
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli HERE
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan HERE
Live Long and Prosper
John The Captain Ryan