Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Penguin Random House. I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!
Length: 288 pages
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
A story of the greatest friendship ever assembled.
What would you do if you found a robot in your back garden?
For 34-year-old Ben Chambers the answer is obvious: find out where it came from and return it home, even if it means losing his wife in the process.
Determined to achieve something for once in his life, Ben embarks on a journey that takes him and the endearing robot, Tang, to the far side of the globe...and back again. Along the way Ben begins to change, subtly at first, and then in ways that only become clear on his return to the house he's always lived in.
So I was lucky enough to be offered a review copy of A Robot in the Garden by Ben over at Penguin Random House as well as being offered a place in the blog tour for this book. I will talk about all of the details about that later on in the review, but when I heard that when reading this book you would fall in love with the robot as much as you did WALL-E. Oh boy I was not prepared for the adorableness of Tang the robot. This book was the perfect little adventure story, and although the journey does originate from a crumbling marriage, this book was not depressive in the slightest - it was the perfect blend and a great book for those with adventurous spirit! So what did I think?
Before I gush into the endless stream of positives I have to say about the book, I just want to mention very quickly why I didn't rate A Robot in the Garden the full 5/5 stars, even though I loved it. During the adventure with our main protagonist Ben and robot Tang, I felt that each time they travelled to a new location to meet with a new person, the structure of the meetings were a tad repetitive in nature. The duration of these meetings seemed to be quite short in length and as I said the structure was too repetitive, I would have liked to have seen some slight originality with each person they met. However don't get me wrong, in no way am I saying that what was written was bad because in no way did the repetitiveness distract me from my enjoyment of the overall story.
So how about the positives? Well we jump into our story right into the minute where we hear there is a robot in the garden. I loved that this was chosen as the main introduction because it forces us as readers to be drawn directly into the adventure that is to ensue. I often find that in the beginning of novels, we're often given too much of an introduction before we kick off the main story arc and I find this tends to drag and be very strenuous to get through - it leaves a real impact on the overall enjoyment of the story. Saying this, while I thoroughly loved the rapid thrust into the story, when we're told that Ben's wife is leaving him, I felt as if she didn't present a valid amount of opinions as to why. It all seemed very rushed in her dismissal and I would have liked to have seen a tad bit more to how all of the things Ben did wrong led up to this - we're told there are more reasons but I don't believe these were ever introduced to the reader? Perhaps I missed it. In the story Ben feels it's his mission to find out who Tang the robot belongs to, and strives to return him to his owner. I loved the vibe that this gave off as a story and oh boy it only got better from here on out. We watch Ben's journey with Tang as they travel across the world and we get a glimpse as to their perils along the way. In terms of the writing, it was elegant and fluid the entire way through the story. The language was simple enough so that you weren't getting lost in a giant bundle of text and metaphors but detailed to perfection so that everything around you was explained beautifully.
Ben's character for me was extremely realistic in the way he was portrayed. Deborah Install pitches Ben as that character we all have inside of us, stuck in the usual daily routine until something comes along with a choice - except for Ben he relies on instinct and goes off on this epic quest to find out more about Tang. I think this side of Ben is something that we all wished we had inside of us, which is why I think I found him an extremely relatable character to relate to and enjoy reading about. Ben was the foundation of realism in the world - stable and solid. Ben is also one of those characters who doesn't quite know where he's going in his life, especially in comparison with his wife Amy who is a very driven, ambitious and career focused individual. After dropping out of a Veterinary course, Ben is now stuck in the house looking for his next job, but his determination and ambition just seems to be lacking - hence why everything in his life seems to be spiralling slowly downwards, that is until he comes across Tang...
Tang is the robot at the end of the garden, rusted and outmoded, but he is the most adorable piece of constructed metal you will find in any modern literature. He will literally make any reader fall for him. He's stubborn, cheeky, sulky, dramatic and has that childlike innocence to him. Tang is also a liar which is something that plays into his cheeky demeanour. I think my favourite scene with Tang had to be the one in the airport where he wanders off towards the robot line, his little frame clunking along as he gets checked. There is just something about that whole scene and the ones following that reminded me of when I was a child and being in airports - I never wanted to leave my mum's side when I went through the security scanners. I appreciated that little bit of nostalgia, and if a book can't make you feel even the slightest bit nostalgic then is it really all that good to begin with?
Going back to Amy's character briefly because at first I had serious issue with her character, I know she was written that way but I felt like some of her reasons in the beginning of the novel weren't overly justified - looking back on the novel on a whole I can now see some of the reasons and their validity, but I think I still would have liked to have seen some more development to show the full extent of their crumbling relationship. I have to say though, by the end of the novel I did enjoy her character more because we simply got a larger glance through Ben's eyes of how much she meant to him and I loved that.
So overall this is definitely a story of true friendship, love and the journey of self-discovery and I utterly adored it. The storyline was superb, the character's were solid and adorable and the writing was flawless. This is definitely a book that you should be looking out for if you want something adult but with the childlike adventure that we often strive for in adult aimed fiction. I have to be honest as well, I'm not a huge reader of adult fiction but this book might have just tempted me out of that bubble of adult fiction insecurity. I give A Robot in the Garden 4 out of 5 stars, a definite recommendation if you're looking for something new! It's fanTANGstic!
Before I forget, as I mentioned earlier I'm going to be part of the blog tour for this book! I'm going to be hosting on the 29th April and the lovely Deborah Install has prepared a piece to guest post to my lovely audience and I can't wait to see what she has to offer for you!
A Robot in the Garden is published on April 23rd, so go pre-order a copy or purchase it then! It's definitely worth it's weight in metallic gold book covers. To keep up to date with all of the action you can follow Deborah 'The Robot Lady' herself on Twitter at @DeborahInstall or click the link here.