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Good But A Missed Opportunity To Be Great
on June 9, 2009
The author did so many things right with this. THE AUTOMATIC DETECTIVE has a solid premise, witty dialogue, an intriguing robot hero and an action-packed plot. The city of the future envisioned here is an intriguing mix of space alien and human culture. The story did a great job of arousing my interest, but did a poor job of sustaining my attention because I felt the author was sacrificing the opportunity to write meaningfully in favor of going for the cheap, detective novel cliches in hopes of getting a quick laugh.
The main character is Mack, a robot designed to be an offensive weapon. However, Mack has developed the Free Will Glitch and is driving a cab, hoping to qualify for citizenship in Empire City. He's got to be careful and not squish any "biologicals" and knows that the police are keeping an eye on him in case his original smash-and-destroy programming runs amok. But when the human family that lives next door to him is kidnapped, Mack swings into action to track them down and rescue them, for reasons that are not clear to his logic processors.
Dynamite stuff--I was charmed by this premise. However, the author insisted on following the noir detective template so closely that it damaged the consistency of his character and hurt the final believability of his plot. By the time the author came to the grand finale, the story was like one of my Dad's old cars--a battered old junker bound for the scrap heap. The science fiction elements were just thrown in to "make" the story work. Every time Mack reached in a pocket and pulled out yet another gadget not mentioned before but immensely convenient in the current fix, the "YOWIE" turned instantly to "owie". It's still fun in a comic book sort of way, but the author missed a chance to explore his robot hero's true character and tell us something of what it is like to be human. I think this could have been better, funnier and edgier, but it's not bad entertainment as it is.