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Title: The Perfect Wife
Author: JP Delaney
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Publisher: Penguin Random House – Ballantine Books
Release Date: August 6th, 2019
Synopsis: Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.
She is a miracle of science.
But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives—and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?
Beware the man who calls you . .
Are cyborgs our future? Are they machines or if we build them in our image do we automatically give them a soul? Surely if you kick a Roomba he makes nothing of it, but what if you impose relationship on a cyborg that has ‘feelings’ or at least is programmed to feel just like you do? The legendary Isaac Asimov’s first law of robotics is that a robot would never injure a human. But what if it’s the other way around? These ethical questions are just some that rise from “The Perfect Wife”, JP Delaney’s latest book.
Is “The Perfect Wife” a thriller? Is it Sci-Fi? Maybe Psychological? The book seems to escape standard definitions, which gives it immediately that X-factor. The certain fact is that the author uses this novel to teach us about autism, its related stigmatism and ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis – a method trying to embed “normal” behaviour to autistic patients), subjects which are no doubtfully close to his heart, and thus making this a rather educational experience as well as an entertaining one.
Tim Scott is a multi-millionaire Silicon Valley founder of an AI robotics company. He has built a ‘Cobot’ (Companion Robot) to replicate his wife Abbie Cullen-Scott, who disappeared five years before, presumed dead. The story is told from Abbie the robot’s point of view, who had been uploaded the memories of the real Abbie through social media, videos and pictures, and her brain was built in a way which is meant to “fill in the gaps”, by using her deductive AI abilities.
The story shifts between timelines, making narrative not altogether straightforward, and leaving confusion between someone who is telling us the alternate story of Abbie and Tim’s history. The couple also have a ten-year-old autistic son Danny who is the source of much tension and is essential to the development of the plotline. The more we read about Danny’s autism ‘outbreak’ the more we learn about Tim & Abbie’s marriage, which is far from the utopian relationship that everyone imagines.
This is a compelling story, well written by an experienced author. However, there were a lot of problematic points which disturbed me personally, as a critical reader. I‘ll endeavour to point these without giving away too much of the plot:
Abbie disappeared, so the upload of her memories is done from social media etc. If this is the case, how can she remember other events? How can she possibly know all of a sudden what Tim had told her during their wedding in India, as an example. The readers are intelligent, and the author should have sorted this issue, and not just hand the reader a “black hole” of data, expecting us to think nothing of it.
The second main issue lies within the story’s characters: while it is apparent that Tim is more sinister than he seems from the start – his true nature is even worst than you’d suspect. This is revealed only later in the story, which is very implausible, given how intelligent Abbie is. In comparison – while real Abbie is this cool-surfer artist who ‘rebels’ against society’s norms, Cobot Abbie is an eager to please wife. That simply didn’t cut the mustard for me. Besides, these are the only two complex characters in the novel, while everyone else has a sketch of a personality, nothing too deep. This makes it a bit unbelievable as the story reaches its climax, and the necessity of these supporting characters is discovered.
Addressing again the issue of autism. I salute the author of finding a fictional-comparable situation to autism, via AI beings. This was a clear well thought of paradigm, which makes readers who know nothing about autism or mind degenerative syndromes to relate and understand the issues which parents to autistic children face their entire lives. The author himself addresses this in his afterword.
In conclusion, “The Perfect Wife” is a very interesting idea, written well enough, but story-wise its execution did not live up to its promise. There should have been at least 100 more pages to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of how the Abbie-bot was devised, and who are Tim’s friends and staff. Eager to get this out, I think the author missed the target completely. The one silver lining is that the ending as it is, as well as the mortality of the robots and the subject of AI, mean that a sequel may very well be just around the corner. Given the ethical issues that the book slightly touches and the constant technological progress in real life – I can certainly see one in the near future.
I’ve never read a JP Delaney book before, clearly a gifted author. However, this book for me is still a draft that should have been edited more, especially when it comes to the story.
You can order ‘The Perfect Wife’ on Amazon.
Review by: Joni Dee
Joni Dee is the author of “And the Wolf Shall Dwell”, an intense political espionage thriller, that revolves around global terrorism and hits frighteningly close to the truth for a work of fiction. He is a military intelligence veteran and his writing of this murky world is inspired by his life experiences.
His novel can be bought from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Wolf-Shall-Dwell-Joni-Dee-ebook/dp/B0743B58SM/ in multiple formats and directly from Blue Poppy Publishing’s website https://bluepoppypublishing.co.uk/product/and-the-wolf-shall-dwell/
You can visit his website for a chance to be a character in his next novel “Terror Within” at https://jondbooks.com
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