Title: The Kingdom
Author: Jess Rothenberg
The blurb on the back of this book sounded amazing – a YA Westworld-style thriller set in a futuristic theme park. The characters the visitors come to see are robotic ‘fantasists’, assumed by their creators to have no inner lives, thoughts, or feelings. Older models are retired as their programming becomes outdated, and new fantasists are brought in to replace them.
The story is told in an unconventional series of court documents, interviews, pieces of evidence, and the recollections of a fantasist on trial for murder. The premise – a robotic character breaking her programming to murder a human – is intriguing. In reading the fantasist’s first-person accounts of the events leading to the trial, the reader is let into the secret that the robots do have inner lives and feelings. The owners of the park and the participants in the trial do not believe this to be true, and the further into the book you read, the more frustrating this becomes. I certainly wanted to convince them that the protagonist could think and feel, and make moral decisions!
I really liked the way the story was presented, with first-person narration contrasted with third-party accounts, interviews, and reports. I’m giving The Kingdom three stars, because I felt that the author could have done more with the setting and the robotic characters. It’s a really hard task, to allow the reader to connect with a non-human narrator, and I didn’t feel as invested in the story as I wanted to. I would have liked to see more of the fantasists’ experiences and relationships with each other, and possibly see the theme park through the eyes of one of the visitors.
The Kingdom told an interesting and inventive story, but in the end I wanted more from the book – which I guess is a compliment to the author for creating such an interesting world!
Have you read The Kingdom? What did you think of the story? Did the book grab you? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!
Review cross-posted to GoodReads.
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