Over the past few days, we’ve really been enjoying Lee Bacon’s Interview with the Robot. You can listen to it for free here.
It’s an Audible Exclusive, and as we’re not subscribers, it’s not something I would normally have come across. I’m so glad we did though. It’s like… How to describe it?
I guess it’s more like a radio play, though the large sections of exposition by the titular robot do help it feel a bit like a conventional story. The plot is part Sylvain Neuvel’s ‘Themis Files’, part ‘Blade Runner’, part ‘Ex Machina’, part ‘Altered Carbon’, part ‘Detroit; become human’, but for children.
I feel like it’s important to add that the premise of man vs machine doesn’t suffer from the far lower age rating. Rather than dilute the themes in the above stories, it asks different questions and explores other aspects of android ethics. It also nimbly deals with the question of family power dynamics for an age group in which this is increasingly relevant.
First off, let me just say that the voice-acting is absolutely sublime. And the way action is described is wonderful – none of the usual ‘I’ll just walk over to the desk to put this sheet of yellowed a4 paper away.’ I think that’s the beauty of the interview style format – it can switch seamlessly between flashback and present.
The basic plot is this;
A girl named Eve is arrested for shoplifting. Whilst in an interview with her appointed advocate from child welfare services, Eve reveals that she is a robot and that she’s running from a group of powerful people. As the story unfolds, it becomes evident that Eve’s past isn’t as simple as it might at first appear.
The run time is 3hrs 42mins – a decent morning’s listening, but not too long to feel like an undertaking. It’s a great companion to a jigsaw, or craft, or Lego, or a game of Tetris… whatever you’re doing.
As I have two small people present, and as they’re full of opinions, I thought i would share some with you… you lucky things…
A note on the age rating: The suggested age is 10+. I can understand why. There are some genuinely unsettling moments in which traditional family models are somewhat subverted. And there’s a whole section about removing skin to reveal wiring beneath, but I think a lot of the uncomfortable parts go over the head of my youngest whilst my eldest – nearing 9 – has the reading under her belt to understand the more… subtle parts. As ever, use your better judgement – you know your children.
5 yr old’s thoughts:
“It’s good so far. I like that (Character) doesn’t manage to capture Eve, because why would (Character) want to capture her? I don’t like that (Character) tries to hurt them becuase it won’t (achieve Character’s goals) – it’ll just hurt the robot! (Character) does not think first! (Character) should think first!”
Brackets added to prevent spoilers.
8 yr old’s thoughts:
“I think it’s very good and interesting. I really like the way it explores robot identities, and I like how you also get (Character’s) side of the story – that it’s not just black and white.”
If you have a listen, I’d love to hear how you get on!
Stay safe out there!