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Barren Cove: A Novel Hardcover – April 26, 2016
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"Providing further evidence of the futility of genre labels, BARREN COVE is a thoughtful and affecting family drama that just happens to be about robots. Winter’s vision of a machine-ruled dystopia is a quiet country manor where a few mechanical people search for meaning in the mysteries of their programming. An unsettling portrait of humanity as seen through the eyes of its creations." (Isaac Marion, New York Times bestselling author of WARM BODIES and THE LIVING)
“BARREN COVE is a touching and funny and skillfully written novel and an original take on science fiction. I'm not a great fan of this genre, but I can see, with this one book, how Mr. Winter could make me one. The writing is clean and highly readable; the characters are believable, despite being robots; the dialog is ear-perfect, and the plot never sags or lets up for a minute. I had a great time reading it.” (Stephen Dixon, National Book Award nominated author of FROG and INTERSTATE)
“A meticulously imagined story that reads like The Wasp Factory soldered into Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. The pages really skittered by. Genuinely literary science fiction.” (Natasha Pulley, author of the internationally bestselling THE WATCHMAKER OF FILIGREE STREET)
“Bold, innovative and thrilling.” (Stephen King on THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH)
“Extraordinary…seductive, even sinister….like some glittering spiderweb that catches the eye of an admiring fly.” (Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times on THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH)
"An absolute astonishment." (Peter Straub on THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH)
"Wildly, audaciously original." (James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces on THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH)
"A delight." (Alice Sebold on THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH)
"Marvelous." (The Washington Post on THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH)
“A testament to style…[a] triumph.” (The Los Angeles Times on THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH)
About the Author
Ariel S. Winter was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Shamus Award, and the Macavity Award for his novel The Twenty-Year Death. He is also the author of the children’s picture book One of a Kind, illustrated by David Hitch, and the blog We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie. He lives in Baltimore.
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Readers who do not usually read science fiction might want to check this one out. Sure it's sci-fi, but it's also an intelligent literary look at what it means to be alive.
So... Why did I not award 5 stars? ***Minor spoilers below***
The book is excellent, and yet I found the tone unsettling at some parts. It's not a book I would call "a fun read." Some parts were actually a little depressing. And if, like me, you hoped for some sort of redemption or uplifting message at the end? Well, much like life itself, prepare to be disappointed. To be clear, the ending itself is not the disappointment, it simply reflects the tone of the novel which proceeds it.
In any case, still a great book, highly recommended.
But... that's not to say I didn't like it. Because some part of me did. Barren Cove is filled with interesting ideas about robotic's future. The likening of drugs for humans to sims for robots was something that I had never encountered before. Nor had I seen Winter's idea for robot procreation. Barren Cove makes you think. About basic things, but also about the circle of artificial life. If humans create robots, then robots develop their own versions of human feelings, eventually what could have been good circles back around to the mess that humanity is.
It took me a while to get into the rhythm of the novel. There were several times when I had to flip back to earlier pieces of the story just to make sure I was clear on what I was reading. Barren Cove is a short novel, but it is filled with all the drama of a much longer one. And, unless you're one of those people that enjoys seeing 'tortured soul' characters and all that, it's hard to find a character in this novel to like. And being unable to like them makes it hard to actually care about any of them.
Barren Cove is a book that you need to read a few times. I think that by the second or third read through, you'd have a much greater understanding of the characters and their relationships and interactions. I feel like I missed things in the novel. I didn't understand, for example, how one robot could feel hatred, but another one couldn't feel love. There are also other layers within the story, like that of robots wanting to 'pass; versus the robots that display their mechanics openly.
This book left me feeling vaguely depressed. The end of Sapien's story in Barren Cove is a non-ending. Its incredibly realistic in that aspect, but still makes a person feel glum. I read somewhere that this was Wuthering Heights for robots? Re-imagined with robots or something like that. If so, it reinforces my desire to never approach that type of classic literature.
I don't regret reading Barren Cove, and I'm glad Atria sent it to me because it meant I forced myself to read it. And in forcing myself to read it, I pushed my boundaries a bit further than I generally push them. This is a well-written science fiction drama that lovers of softer sci-fi will enjoy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go read about giant monsters smashing things to smithereens to regain my reading equilibrium.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
Sapien rents a beach house to get away from the city and for an opportunity to contemplate. Younger robots had chosen to deactivate. What was he hanging on for? One of the last human-built robots, Sapien lives in a world where robots reproduce 'children' and human life no longer holds any value.
When Sapien decides to visit the beach house owner, a human named Beachstone, he encounters a beautiful female robot name Mary and her distorted brother, Kent. There is a 21st c. gardener robot named Kapec and the house computer Dean. A young robot Clarke has a wild and cruel streak. Sapien is drawn into the family mystery when Dean tells him their history, how Asimov 3000 raised a human child with his children Mary and Kent, alienating his son, and the violent family war that ensued. Sapien does not find the answers he was seeking, but he finds clarity.
I would love to deconstruct the novel but I won't take the fun away from you. But I will say this is an amazing retelling of Wuthering Heights.
I received a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.