Monday 11 May 2015

A Robot in the Garden Review and Interview

Title: A Robot in the Garden
Author: Deborah Install
Publisher: DoubledayRelease date: Out now!!Synopsis: A story of the greatest friendship ever assembled. Ben Chambers wakes up to find something rusty and lost underneath the willow tree in his garden. Refusing to throw it on the skip as his wife Amy advises, he takes it home.  

 Review:  This was a sweet, fun read, that reminded me of 'This Book Will Save Your Life' in that its all about the journey that all the characters take, with a robot thrown in the mix for an added twist.

Because who wouldn't want to find a robot in their garden! When I first started the book, for whatever reason I didn't peg it as an AI book. I knew there was a robot (obviously) but it was a nice touch that it was a world that felt real and now, but that robots were a functional part of. It also wasn't overstated, it was just there and that was nice. Then into this there were some serious moral issues looking at the differences between robots and androids, and the way we treat our robots ( I say our, not that I have have one), and again these weren't overstated, thrown in you face, but a part of the book that pushed everything along!  

Tang... Oh Tang. I loved Tang as a character ( It's getting weird writing Tang so much in one sentence) He was funny and witty, I had a really good visualisation of him in my head, and he was well written. I loved his cunning childlike nature but there were also some beautiful moments, such as the bit in the airport, which I won't say which part, but you will know what I mean when you read it because you'll also go AWWWWW (and if you don't you have a stone cold heart! - I kid I can't make that assumption not knowing you)

Ben initially for me was a bit wet, and I was like ok....right. However I feel like this was how he was supposed to be so that we could all go on this journey with him, and he grew on me.

When I was reading there was that element of it really isnt that easy to just go travelling over the world. BUT the fact is for some people it actually so just deal with it, enjoy the premium seat and have fun in Japan!

Tang also popped in at the book launch, to look at his picture on the bottle of wine (that's when you know you've made it)!  

Read this book, you'll enjoy it and that's all there is to say on the matter! Keep scrolling for our interview with the Author Deborah Install. 

1.     Firstly congratulations on having A Robot in the Garden out there in the wild! How does it feel?

Thank you! It feels amazing. This has been a lifelong ambition so to finally see it happen is out of this world.

2.     Having come from a writers group, have you found that experience has helped you?

Absolutely. Without the group the book wouldn’t have got written. As well as their unwavering support and encouragement they are also all brilliant writers so you know whatever criticism they give you is worth taking on board. Also, you can’t beat reading out week after week to improve yourself as a writer – both from a confidence point of view but also in terms of editing. I often spot things when I read aloud that I’ve overlooked before.

3.     What is your writing process like and has it changed since you have become published?

I think there’s more fear involved since publication! It’s that difficult second album novel – the fear that I won’t be able to produce anything good again etc. I’ve got plenty to work on though so no fear of running out of ideas just yet! As far as my writing process is concerned, I like to plan the plot out to start with – I just find I don’t know what I’m going to say or where I’m going if I don’t broadly know the shape of the novel. I find I can’t develop the characters properly either if I don’t know their end point. That said, the ending of ARITG changed a few times en route so you have to be flexible. Day to day, I write whichever chapter or section I feel I want to write at that moment, just because I find it easier that way. That only works with a distant deadline, however – if there’s one looming there’s nothing for it but to just sit down and plough on.

4.     Let’s move on to the book. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind it.

Nappies. Newborn nappies and the smell of them, which my husband described as an ‘acrid tang’. Instantly, for some reason that sounded like a beat up robot from East Asia. He ended up hailing from the South Pacific, actually, but the effect was the same. Tang and Ben and their journey all just came to me overnight after that conversation, and the next day I started writing. I guess I must have had a little robot idea buried in my head somewhere that took the right random remark to bring it out. You just never know when odd conversations are going to spark something. Actually that’s one of my favourite things about being a writer – you never know where and when the ideas will strike, they can and do come from everywhere.

5.     Have you always had a interest in AI? 

When I started writing the book I’d have said no, but as time’s gone on I’ve realised that yes, I have. I grew up in a household with Asimov, and as a child of The Terminator and Star Wars. I always felt R2-D2 had more to say than he does. I’m also a big technology fan, so I guess it goes hand in hand.

6.     Where...or maybe even why did the Hotel California incident come back?

That incident started out as a little segment to amuse the writing group, as did a number of bits in the book. Over time though it’s become clear that some find it one of the darker parts of the story, which is really interesting. It always seemed logical that if there was a world in which humanoid robots existed they would find their way into the sex trade, but I never intended it to be as dark as it came out. It is a serious issue though, especially when coupled with the other questions in the book about how different groups are treated by each other.

7.     Do the places that Ben and Tang visit in the book hold special connection to you?

They do, yes, by and large. Tokyo for sure – I’ve been to Japan twice and both times I’ve come home I’ve felt like I’ve left part of my soul behind there, so it had to go in. It also made sense since they have an undeniable love of both nature and technology. California also comes from experience: I took a gap year after uni and travelled round the US, Grayhounding around the outside. The drive between California and Texas is looooooooooong, especially on a bus. The South Pacific is just somewhere I really want to go. I think I missed a research opportunity.

8.     Which part are you most looking forward to reading?

You mean if I read the book again? I like the bit with the fish. Tang and Ben are so happy at that point.

9.     Did Tang take on a life of his own as it were whilst you were writing and lead his 
character into places you hadn't initially expected?

Oh God, yes. He’s gone further and further off on his own as time’s gone on. I don’t even think he needs me anymore. Less so I think whilst writing the first few drafts, he was reasonably well behaved back then. I didn’t expect him to want his own career though, or to get drunk. They were both a surprise.

10. What are some of your favourite AI books and Films?

Ooh that’s tricky. Star Wars, of course. Wall-E: that film has all the feels. A book called ‘No-Bot’, by Sue Hendra, which is a picture book that meant one of my son’s first words was ‘bobot’, so it has a special place in my heart.I’m reluctant to choose between the Asimovs but probably I, Robot: set the Laws up and watch what happens when they’re broken. I purposely avoided the Laws in this book, but you have to be quite careful when departing from something so famous, even if it is also fiction! Lastly I think the film A.I. itself. It broke my heart when I saw it – I couldn’t bear what happened in the end (trying not to give spoilers) and it can’t help have influenced me in wanting Tang to be truly loved.

11. Finally - what 5 places would tang like to go on holiday too?

Great question! I’d like him to go to Legoland, I think that’d be a riot. Also Ben’s family have a holiday home in Tuscany so he’ll probably go there at some point. He also wants to go to Canada. And he really loved Japan so I think he’d like to see more of the country. Especially those monkeys that sit in hot springs. I also think he’d find skiing a blast, apart from anything it’s cold so he wouldn’t have to worry about overheating.


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