A Bot with a Heart

Book Review by Dana Taylor

SET MY HEART TO FIVE is a book that pretty much defies description. It isn’t like any other book you’ve ever read. Author Simon Stephenson creates a bright futuristic tale starring a “bot” named Jared. In the year 2054, after the great Internet crash, when too many people could not remember the name of their first pet passwords, the world changed irrevocably. Jared is a bot dentist, living in Michigan. He is made from human DNA, but he is not human. He is a bot, akin to a glorified toaster or microwave. A feelingless machine to cheerfully do the work that humans don’t like to do, like root canals.

Bots are designed to perform functions with a smile on their soulless faces. The fact that modern entertainment has created an industry devoted to portraying “killer bots” has turned them into a perceived necessary evil. People are suspicious of bots. A malfunctioning bot is reported and immediately “wiped” or even incinerated.

Of course, our hero bot, Jared, isn’t your run-of-the-mill AI. Through watching pre-crash films, he has developed FEELINGS. Bots are logical machines, they don’t have feelings. But Jared evolves beyond his programing into the specter of emotions. His logical mind struggles to analyze and understand the human experience of feelings and emotions.

While the AI-becoming-human isn’t a fresh story line, the satirical observations on human behavior is what sets this book apart from the rest. Seen through the eyes Jared, humans are the most illogical and bizarre of creatures. Jared embarks on a journey from Michigan to LA with the dream of writing a screenplay that will change the minds of humans about bots. Story line tension is provided by an inept inspector from the Bureau of Robotics is in pursuit of the wayward bot. Through Jared’s Everyman adventures, we see ourselves and the society we have created. Through the laugh out loud excellent narration of Christopher Ragland in the audio version, the absurdity of human behavior is revealed again and again, usually punctuated with Jared’s exclamation, “I cannot!”

By the end, Jared has experienced all the highs and lows of human experience– fear, joy, love , loss and compassion. In fact, he may be an improvement on the human race. Author Simon Stephenson has penned an insightful satirical gem.

I picked up the audio version at Chirpbooks.com for $4.99, which will be at that price through June 2021.

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble

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