Review: Made to Kill by Adam Christopher

Made to Kill by Adam Christopher
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Unfortunately, Made to Kill is another book that I have to file as one I wanted to like way more than I actually did. It's not a bad book, per se, and the premise is great, but it did fail to live up to my expectations.

It's the 1960s, and PI Raymond Electromatic is the last robot. I'm all for an alt-history trip about a robot detective, and Adam Christopher has the hard-boiled noir patois down solid in this ode to Raymond Chandler. There's enough retro sci-fi to satisfy and a Red Scare menace that shines brightly, but Christopher doesn't take his ideas far enough to really work for me.

Take our centerpiece of this story, Raymond Electromatic himself. He's limited by 1960s computer-era technology, which means he has a limited battery-life and his memory is short-term, stored on tape that has to be backed-up nightly and wiped for fresh recording. Aside from his operating system, Raymond is basically a blank shell, a robotic man without a history, and since he is a robot, without any feelings and a quaint acceptance of his programmatic limitations, his existential crises are cleanly averted. This feels like a cop-out, and Raymond's lack of long-term memory really has very little repercussions on his investigative capabilities. He doesn't remember meeting people that he just saw the day before, but this has no impact on his proceedings in the case or in his relations to them, which makes the story progression artificially neat and tidy when it should be way more complicated and erratic.

As a character, Raymond is also about as interesting as the invulnerable steel he is made out. An unfeeling dude without a past doesn't make for an electrifying read, and the situations Raymond finds himself in are far more interesting than the character itself. He's a window into Christopher's sci-fi noir world, but little else. There's not enough crags and edges to hold onto, and, frankly, he's a dull narrator. Which is a shame, particularly since there's plenty of built-in conflict, or should be, between he and his AI handler, Ada...but again, this comes down to information that the reader is more privy to (particularly if you've read the prequel story, Brisk Money than the character. But Raymond's approach to this conflict is too blasé to care, and if it doesn't matter to him, maybe it shouldn't matter to me.

I still sense a missed opportunity, and that's my basic reaction to this book as a whole. It's rife with potential and intriguing concepts and ideas, but the execution is not nearly as exciting as the possibilities it presents.

[Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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