Book reviews

In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune

In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees live three robots – fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe.

The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled ‘HAP’, he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio – a past spent hunting humans.

When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.

Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: can he accept love with strings attached?

I was never a fan of Pinocchio, at least not the Disney film. I know that this is, in many ways a retelling of the original on which that film is based, and while I could see similarities, in the introduction of the Blue Fairy, for me it was about the characters.

Gio weaves a story around his son Victor, giving him the fairy tale of a mother and father who loved him, who would do anything to come back to him, but the truth is so much more beautiful, though strange. I can honestly say that it never clicked for me that he wasn’t human. The realisation that the pain in his heart was loneliness was so beautifully written, it tugged at my own heart as I read in the dark of my quiet flat.

Victor is, for all that he has grown up with robotic companions, a well-adjusted adult. He is driven, ambitious and caring and this is so well reflected in the way that he wipes aside any concerns for his own safety when he comes across a one-armed android in the scrapyards.

This ragtag crew that Gio and Victor have created are both hilarious and emotional at the same time. I just couldn’t help the crack that opened in my heart as I continued to read about the group of friends who were so different yet so alike.

Little Rambo is cute and I wanted to hug him even though he’s a vacuum cleaner. He is so desperate to be loved and accepted and always wants to be at the centre of everything. He’s like the youngest sibling, so much younger than everyone else who is afraid to be left, for fear that he is missing something important that people will be talking about later.

For some reason when I hear the sarcasm and snide remarks before she switches into her comfort mode, Nurse Ratched brings to mind Marvin in the original TV series of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. The one who is droll and perhaps a little bit depressed, but more than anything else is there to look over everything and make sure it doesn’t blow up in their faces.

It feels as though parts of this book were a message to everyone not to rely on technology, a somewhat Matrix-like warning that computers could turn on us, but at the same time it was a story of friendship and love and learning, of change and adaptation.

I loved The House in the Cerulean Sea and didn’t think that a story about robots could give me similar feelings, but in Hap and Rambo, Nurse Ratched, Gio and Victor I have found a lovely story that, if you haven’t read it already, I would recommend you pick up. This is a wonderfully heartwarming tale that could make you believe in fairytales all over again.


  • A beautifully written fantasy
  • Clever and unique characters
  • Creative, different, thought-provoking


  • I didn’t want it to end
5-star rating
Category: Book reviews
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