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Willful Machines Paperback – October 18, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Seven years ago, Lee Fisher's mother was killed by the renegade artificial human, Charlotte, who then transferred her consciousness into the Internet and began operating as a virtual terrorist. Now 16 and the son of the president of the United States, Lee falls for Nico, the quirky Shakespeare-crazed new kid at the prestigious Inverness Prep. Unfortunately, he can't allow anyone to find out he is gay or about his recent suicide attempt, which he would like to keep from Nico as well. Things get worse when Charlotte turns her attention to Lee and he becomes her next target. On the run, desperate to escape Charlotte's machines and save himself, Lee discovers other secrets about the night his mom was killed. The story, set in the not-too-distant future, is gripping, and the mystery of Charlotte unravels at just the right pace. Although there could have been a better balance of action to romance, both elements are portrayed realistically and in a compelling way. The characterizations are on target; everyone is portrayed with depth and honesty. This is also a philosophical exploration of the differences between living and being alive. Are we all just machines of one type or another? Floreen handles these heavy ideas with a thoughtful and deft hand, never weighing down this exciting thriller. This book will find an audience for anyone who likes a good romance/thriller but also should resonate with those who are coming to terms with and discovering their own sexuality and self-awareness. VERDICT An excellent debut thriller that will reach a wide range of readers.—Erik Knapp, Davis Library, Plano, TX --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"Smart, brave and utterly original, WILLFUL MACHINES asks questions that matter. Tim Floreen’s unforgettable debut will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading." (Amie Kaufman, New York Times Bestselling Author of ILLUMINAE and THESE BROKEN STARS)
"WILLFUL MACHINES is as exciting as it is heartbreaking. A deft mixture of science fiction, gritty action, and sweet first love, Tim Floreen’s debut is everything I want from a book." (Shaun David Hutchinson, author of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley)
"WILLFUL MACHINES is a thought-provoking thrillerwrapped around a fascinating concept—skillfully mixed in with basic humandilemmas. Tim Floreen’s tale convincingly depicts a world where machinescan pass as human, but humans still struggle with age-old questions: “Howmuch control do I have over my own life? Who can I dare to trust? Who can Idare to love?”" (Margaret Peterson Haddix, New York Times Bestselling Author)
*** "From a first-person perspective, Lee fumbles from self-deprecation to self-confidence. As varied as his opinions are of himself, so too is the landscape, mixing technology with gothic settings à la Poe and Stoker. Gothic, gadget-y, gay: a socially conscious sci-fi thriller to shelve between The Terminator and Romeo and Juliet." (Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW)
"This is a well-written title [that] will cause students to think aboutthe future. Science fiction fans especially will enjoy the story." (School Library Connection)
"This book will find an audience for anyone who likes a good romance/thriller but also should resonate with those who are coming to terms with and discovering their own sexuality and self-awareness. An excellent debut thriller that will reach a wide range of readers." (School Library Journal)
"From start to finish, Floreen builds a world in a future near enough to resonate with teens’ realities. The question of whether machines can possess free will–and if so, what separates man and machine—is thought provoking and handled maturely. Readers will clamor for a sequel." (Booklist)
"Floreen’s thoughtful debut calls into question the definition of humanity and the nature of love. Genuine twists should catch readers off-guard [...]and the story raises intriguing ideas about free will, morality, and growing up." (Publishers Weekly)
"A tightly knit thriller that will delight both its targeted teen audience and adults who enjoy a wonderfully created futuristic world." (Lambda Literary)
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I immediately loved Willful Machines. I liked Lee right away. He's honest about his fears and his struggle with depression. He's afraid of heights and he's fully in the closet because his dad is the type of president to pass laws that are reminiscent of the 1950s and pushes family values. But Nico is just so freaking cute! The moment he starts flirting with Lee, I was in love! And so was Lee, probably. I just wanted to smoosh their faces together, which they thankfully did for me not too far in. I was a little bummed that this was instalove. Lee goes from very much against doing anything that will even hint that he's gay, to pronouncing his love for the new boy. It was cute, but I could have done without that.
As for the plot, Willful Machines kept me furiously flipping pages. I totally called the first twist, but that didn't keep me from enjoying it any less. It was just that obvious. But there were plenty of other surprises, twists, and turns along the way as Lee and Nico fight off evil robots! Well, the robots aren't evil themselves, but something evil starts controlling them. The ending is an open one, but I like to imagine that Lee gets his happy ending. Or at least a happily ever after for now.
Willful Machines isn't all cute boys flirting and battling technology. There's a lot of deep stuff that will make you think. Of course, there's Lee's depression which is discussed at length. But there's also a lot about free will and making choices. If a robot has free will and is capable of making their own choices, how does that make them different from humans? If humans are predisposed to make certain choices, how is that different than a machine's programming? What does it mean to be alive? Do any of us really have free will?
I just really, really enjoyed Willful Machines. It definitely sounded like a book that I would like, but I honestly wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. I was expecting a fast-paced Sci-Fi thriller kind of thing, which I got, but with kissing and feelings!
‘Willful Machines’ was thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve had a long run of average-ish reads and was hoping for something to pull me out of that rut, and ‘Willful Machines’ was it. In a sci-fi future at a boarding school (reminding me a little of Harry Potter) with robots and conspiracies – totally had me engrossed.
Lee, our “Walk-In” protagonist (well closeted gay teen,) coming to terms with living up to his family’s expectations, watched everywhere he goes by cameras or security, it’s no wonder he’s attempted suicide... but that’s all in the past. He’s just trying to get by. I was interested from the first page and read this book in one sitting. We see Lee’s character develop slowly throughout the storyline and I identified with his insecurities, having to live up to an image and the pressures of responsibility.
When a new student starts at Inverness Prep, Nico, the dreamboat all the girls swoon over – so does Lee. And luck would have it, Nico seems interested in Lee too. If only Lee weren’t a “Walk-in.” Nico is a little wacky, messy, and loves to sprout lines from Shakespeare, so it’s not like he fits into any model jock trope. I liked how their friendship develops and how each of their trust is tested in the story.
Lee’s best friend Bex is part goth, part journalist, part rebel, and is our story’s straight shooter. She was probably the most stereotypical – which is saying something because she is anything but boring.
There is a fair amount of predictability for the novel, but I think it’s on purpose, because the main point of the novel isn’t what happens, but the questions it raises. I’d guessed the major plot points early on, but still got a lot of surprises along the way.
Tim Floreen’s writing style is delightful. It’s colourful without being overly descriptive. It lets your imagination fill in the blanks without slowing the pace of the novel.
I’ve read on his website that this is a standalone, which saddens me because I was so hooked on the story I wanted more. Begging for more! *HINT Tim Floreen if you ever read this* Highly recommend this to all my friends, it has the ability to be philosophical, nostalgic, entertaining and diverse all at the same time without coming off as intellectual. I think I’ve just become a superfan.