I’ve had both of Kirsty Applebaum’s books on my reading list for a while now. While I don’t naturally gravitate towards speculative fiction, the Artificial Intelligence theme of her second book jumped out at me today, and so I settled in for a one-sitting read…
Set in the future – probably one that’s not too far away – the perfect friend has been created: Troofriend Mark IV. A Troofriend doesn’t steal, lie or bully, and provides parents with guilt-free reassurance that their children are spending time with an impeccably-behaved, remotely monitored, companion, so that they can get on with their busy lives. But are these android friends as perfect as they are promised to be?
Initially, Sarah is not at all impressed that her parents have bought her a Troofriend, she would have rather had a puppy; however, she slowly comes round to the idea when she thinks that it might win her some friends in school. While Sarah becomes increasingly aware that her Troofriend – Ivy -is developing emotions and feelings of friendship, she starts to become attached to the android too and thus doesn’t want to speak up and raise the alarm, especially when there are press reports that a number of ‘malfunctioning’ Troofriends are being returned to the factory and being destroyed. So when her parents start to become concerned, she devises a plan to keep Ivy safe…
This is a thought-provoking story that explores some really interesting ethical issues. Can a device devoid of human emotion be defined as the ‘perfect friend’ and should technology ever be used in such a way? Can an android’s sophisticated software self-evolve to the point where it can override its settings and begin to ‘develop’ emotions and if so, should it then be afforded rights as a sentient being? The book isn’t dominated by these moral ambiguities, though – readers (aged 9+) can enjoy the story purely for it’s unique, entertaining and and page-turning plot. I liked it a lot and it’s now made me want to dive straight into Kirsty’s first book, The Middler.
Author: Kirsty Applebaum
Cover Art: Sam Kalda
Publisher: Nosy Crow
Paperback: 208 pages