Books, Reading, Review
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Book Review – ‘Made to Kill’

PrintTitle: Made to Kill
Author: Adam Christopher
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Rating: ★★★

“Raymond Electromatic is good at his job, as good as he ever was at being a true Private Investigator, the lone employee of the Electromatic Detective Agency–except for Ada, office gal and super-computer, the constant voice in Ray’s inner ear. Ray might have taken up a new line of work, but money is money, after all, and he was programmed to make a profit. Besides, with his twenty-four-hour memory-tape limits, he sure can keep a secret.
When a familiar-looking woman arrives at the agency wanting to hire Ray to find a missing movie star, he’s inclined to tell her to take a hike. But she had the cold hard cash, a demand for total anonymity, and tendency to vanish on her own.
Plunged into a glittering world of fame, fortune, and secrecy, Ray uncovers a sinister plot that goes much deeper than the silver screen–and this robot is at the wrong place, at the wrong time.” (Goodreads)

I had high hopes for Made to Kill, which is the first (and currently only) book in a series called the ‘L.A. Trilogy’. The idea of a robot private detective/hitman was appealing to me, especially when taking into consideration the fact that the robot is the last robot in existence and the story is set in the 1960s. To me that all added up to a different and fun read. What I got was definitely different, and sometimes fun, but unfortunately not quite everything it could have been.

Plot wise I thought it was decent and fairly original. The reason for Raymond’s even being in existence was a great premise. Robots had initially been invented for a government program to do jobs that were either menial or dangerous. Unfortunately the people in those jobs weren’t happy with this, and so the program, along with the robots, was scrapped. All of them except for Raymond, who was part of a different program.

For the most part it’s a pretty cool detective type novel. What starts out as a simple missing persons case turns into something much larger (which I won’t elaborate on in case I spoil things for you) and following Raymond as he attempts to unravel an increasingly tangled case was fun. It also really felt like it was set in Hollywood in the ’60s, particularly in one scene set in a nightclub for the rich and famous, which had all the glamour and decadence that one would expect from this era.

So there were plenty of pluses overall, which made this a fun read. But there were a couple of things that bothered me, mostly to do with the main character, Raymond. His ‘operating system’ is based on the mind of an actual person, giving him many human thoughts and characteristics. Because of this, I frequently forgot he was a robot, and by the end I thought that you could easily slot a human into the role and it would still work, with a few minor edits of course. For me this defeated the purpose of having a robot as the main character.

What got to me even more were the slightly clumsy reminders that Raymond was, in fact, a robot. “I sniffed. It sounded like a car with a dead battery”; “I laughed. I’d been practicing. It sounded like two rocks going for a joyride in a clothes washer”. I understand that it was probably difficult to write a robot who mentally was based on a human. But if the only way to write his robot characteristics is to stick in a few sentences here and there, then he may as well not have been a robot at all, as I’ve already said.

Looking at other reviews on Goodreads, I’m mostly alone in my opinions. So chances are if you want to read a story about a detective robot/hitman, then you might not have any problems with Made to Kill. On the whole it’s a good read, and I wouldn’t be against reading another instalment in the trilogy. But if I did, I would be going in with the hopes that Raymond as the main character had been tidied up and written more consistently.

Many thanks to Tor Books and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review!

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8 Comments

  1. Pingback: November Recap and December Reads | bitsnbooks

  2. I think writing robots is always hard, one because we don’t really have anything to compare it to yet, and two because it’s humans who write robots, so we’re bound to infuse a bit of our humanity into it.

    I recently read The Illuminae Files, and that has a pretty great AI system in it as a character that’s also definitely a computer.

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    • I completely agree with you. But I still think it could have been done better. I think a good example of a well-written robot is Sonny in ‘I, Robot’ (a movie based on a book yes, but someone still had to write the movie robot); I thought the way he responded to things around him and interacted with humans was really well done. It’s probably not an overly fair comparison though as I had a visual reminder of the robot – I should probably read the book!

      Did you like ‘The Illuminae’ overall? I’ve seen some mixed opinions on it – some people love it while others have said it didn’t quite meet their expectations.

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      • Yeah, no, just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done well. And there are good examples so it can be done.

        I did really like ‘The Illuminae Files.” If for nothing else then for originality. But I really liked the story, too. Both the formatting and the storyline were very unique and fascinating to me. I don’t know how much you know about it, but it’s formatted like a stack of documents (chat transcripts, reports, charts, etc) so it’s not your regular novel. I was a little worried that’d detract from it but I thought it enhanced it.

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