The Silver Metal Lover

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silvermetallover.jpg

Tanith Lee

GENRES:
Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Romance

SUMMARY:
Jane is a rich, naive, and unhappy teenager who lives in a mansion in the sky with her mother. Superficially her mother gives her everything she could ever want and need: designer clothes, her own suite, and all the most cutting edge technological advances. Her mother also controls most of Jane's life and chooses Jane's schedule, her talents and interests, and even her physical appearance and emotional state. Even Jane's friends have been hand-picked including Clovis, her ascerbic but caring friend; Egyptia, a beautiful self-centred actress; and Jason and Medea, malicious and bored twins.

All of this changes when Jane meets Silver, a new model of robot designed to provide social, sexual, and artistic pleasure to people. Jane quickly falls in love with Silver and gives up everything she has to be with him. Unfortunately, Silver's skill and ability to adopt human qualities have made him a threat to his creators, and they want him back.

RESPONSE:
I bought this novel from a book fair for less than a dollar, and it has the distinction of having the worst cover and title of any book currently in my collection. Go ahead, look at the photo above; it's cringe-inducing! The cover art looks like the bastard child of Asimov's robot series and some Harlequin romance paperback from the 80s. I brought this book with me to the dentist's office recently, and I was actually embarrassed to be seen reading it in the waiting room.

But despite it all, The Silver Metal Lover actually makes a really good pulp fantasy-sf read. Tanith Lee is a good writer, and this is a well-crafted story. I'm normally annoyed with first person narratives, but Lee writes with such realism as 16-year old Jane that the personal perspective really adds to the story and the evolution of the characters and plot. Jane's emotions and reactions are abrupt and overly dramatic like most teens, but that doesn't make them any less real. Similarly, her transformation from a quiet, robotic obedient daughter to a poor free spirit artist seems to happen very quickly but is nonetheless believable.

The plot is simplistic and predictable, basically just a sci-fi variation on the star-crossed lovers theme. But it's not the plot that makes this book appealing (you'll notice that I avoid referring to the title lest it conjure up images of the horrible cover art). It's the characters and the setting. The future in which Jane lives in a land of extremes, complete freedom and absolute control, decadent cloud mansions and squalid tenements, amazing technological entertainment and traditional buskers- quite easy for the reader to identify with. Well, except for the cloud mansions I suppose....

And the characters are great. Jane has her extremely annoying moments, but I couldn't help but sympathise with her. Silver was, well, a very rational and talented robot who ironically helped Jane become self aware. Jane's friends were the true treats, and they reminded me a lot of the cast from Cruel Intentions- rich kids with way too much time and money on their hands who toy with others for entertainment. Well, it was my entertainment so good on 'em.

POINT BLANK:
Pretend you didn't see the cover. It really is a good book.