Page 45 Review by Stephen
"This is so... weird. I've never seen a book on paper. Why do you like reading them like this? Feels so... fake."
"I don't know. Mom used to read them to Andy and me before bed. I grew to enjoy it."
Any science fiction worth its salty credit chips will not only make you think of the future ahead but ponder the present right in front of you. Different perspectives can be so useful in making you reconsider your own or appreciate it in greater depth.
I'm of an age where reading anything other than printed paper still seems artificially, tinny, awkward and fake: even reviews on a computer screen but most certainly prose or comics on a tablet! To our two robotic boys fashioned to mimic as closely as possible ten-year-olds in order to become perfect companions for humans, young or old, anything other than a straight digital download is going to seem clumsy and impure.
But of course the Tim series' emotive abilities were enhanced to adapt and expand, and Tim-21's experience as a brother to human colonist Andy has left him missing his absent friend terribly. The picture book Tim-21 salvaged from his former colony stars Trinket Tocket And His Tin Rocket, a nod towards another young android, Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy. As Tim-22 excitably dashes off leaving his new companion alone, Tim-21's artificial fingers trace the wobbly, handwritten inscription below the printed "This book belongs to":
"Andy Tavers and Tim-21".
Their friendship bonded in a book for all to see, like some proud, legally binding document.
It is that childhood friendship seen from both perspectives after so many years apart which will form the heart of this second volume, along with the nascent relationship between the two Tim bots which will prove far from obvious (they've had different experiences, after all) and that between Tim-21 and Bandit, the artificial dog he's been forced to abandon on a hostile planet.
Can you imagine what that must feel like?
The key to this title's success is that Lemire and Nguyen have both imbued Tim-21 with more humanity than anyone else in this series which now seems set of a cycle of destruction. They only way you can tell Tim-21 and Tim-22 apart - and indeed Tim-22 from a human child - is that latter's lack of speech contractions and perhaps an overly analytical interest in what's prepossessing him. Tim-21's ditched that in favour of something simple, more intuitive: a core response to his own feelings.
For a detailed analysis of the catastrophic events leading to a universe if which our treasured robotic servants have become outlawed and hunted down in the hope extinction through no fault of their own, please see my extensive review of DESCENDER VOL 1: TIN STARS. The plot is ridiculously clever with a great big lie revealed right at the climax which makes a re-read almost obligatory, and I stick to my guns comparing Nguyen's delicate, lambent watercolour washes here - loose enough to let lots of white-paper light shine through - to Jon J. Muth's in the much-missed MOONSHADOW collection. Blugger even reminds me of Ira.
Now you will meet not only The Hardwire robots, rebelling against the universal cull (designated terrorists, obviously) but also The Between whose queen has a personal past with one of our cast. They're technologically augmented humans. Quite how they'll fit into the big picture I've no idea, but The Hardwire won't necessarily respond in kind to their cull because - remember - they are not human and we shouldn't judge them by our own lack of standards. Although one of them's quickly catching up, obviously...
Now, what about Tim-21's dream about a robotic afterlife, like some heavenly data-dump up in the clouds...?