The Vestigial Heart: A Novel of the Robot Age

Carme Torras, trans. from the Spanish by Josephine Swarbrick. MIT, $19.95 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-0-262-03777-8
AI researcher and roboticist Torras, a professor at the Institut de Robòtica i Informàtica Industrial in Barcelona, channels her knowledge into a fascinating and provocative speculative tale. The people of Torras’s imagined near future are attended by robots that see to their every need and insulate them from discomfort. The result is widespread emotional and psychological atrophy. Robotics mogul Dr. Craft seeks a solution in robot enhancements, hiring bioengineer Leo Mar’10 to develop a “prosthesis” to stimulate creativity. “Anti-techno” Silvana, an emotions masseuse, researches anachronistic emotions in books so she can try to stimulate them in her clients. Into this sterile world, a 13-year-old girl named Celia wakes from a century of cryogenic sleep. Emotional and creative in ways that Leo and Silvana can scarcely understand, she tries to adapt while they seek in her psychology a reawakening of what humanity has lost. Torras is not subtle; her characters tend to state the novel’s themes outright. However, where other writers might use this scenario for alarmist antiscience screeds, Torras instead examines her characters’ situations with empathy, seeking a middle way between fear of the future and embracing its possibilities. Some early sections are stiff, but the moving conclusion will leave readers glad they stayed the course. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/23/2018
Release date: 04/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
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