You remember the James Thurber short story in which the
husband sees a unicorn in the garden, and his wife thinks
he's crazy? A similarly surreal scene begins this
entertaining British book as the wife notifies her husband
about A ROBOT IN THE GARDEN and they discuss the broken
latch on the gate which the husband was supposed to fix.
Amy and Ben have a marriage in which Amy works as a lawyer
and Ben looks for a job. Only now he's keeping an eye on
the robot. It calls itself Tang and doesn't work well or
speak coherently. It looks pretty beat up and haphazard,
not much use for domestic work, and it just sits in the
garden. Amy thinks a proper new android would be useful,
since she does much of the housework and cooking. But Tang
is just in the way. After a row, Ben decides to take Tang
to his makers in California for repair.
On the flights and road trip we see a lot of life with
mobile mechanical assistants, including an android
fetishists club - yes, it seems this is a book for adults -
a Japanese karaoke bar and the offices of electronics
firms. Ben also thinks back over his marriage, trying to
recall happy days or to see what went wrong. We start to
see household androids and robots as having a personality,
maybe even an identity, of their own. And we ask ourselves
how they should be treated. Looking after an inconvenient,
sometimes uncooperative pile of ambulatory scrap and
circuits starts to change Ben, in unexpected ways.
Deborah Install has clearly had fun in creating her story
and giving her robot Tang a personality and a murky past.
With some strong language and adult issues, this is a fine
read for grown ups and those who don't want to grow up just
yet. Deborah is a copywriter at a marketing and design
agency, which in the future will presumably be marketing
household help with chips and circuits. A ROBOT IN THE
GARDEN will keep you amused. Just watch out for the oil
leaks on the carpet.
For fans of THE ROSIE PROJECT and THE CURIOUS
INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME, A broken man and his
damaged robot build an unlikely friendship-with some
Ben's really great at
failing at things-his job, taking the garbage out, and being
a husband. But when he discovers a battered robot named Tang
in his garden, he decides to get out of his couch-ridden
comfort zone. Without a crucial bit of machinery, Tang will
stop working, and Ben can't let that happen, especially
since he's already alienated everyone else he cares about.
Determined to achieve something for once in his life, Ben
sets out to fix his new robot comrade and soon discovers
that Tang might be just the thing to fix what's broken in
Ben. Funny, touching, and charming, A Robot in the
Garden explores what it is to be a man, a sentient
being, and a friend.