Tuesday, December 10, 2019


Van Eekhout, Greg. Cog
October 1st 2019 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Cog looks like an ordinary twelve year old boy, but he is an advanced android that the scientists at uniMind use to watch learning (cognitive development) behavior. He lives with Gina, who functions as his mother and sets him to do certain tasks so she can watch how he handles them. Often, he does not calculate the entire impact of his actions (like saving a chihuahua from being hit by a truck by getting in front of the truck), which makes him very much like the average middle school student! When his latest exploit leads to him being returned to corporate headquarters, he is not happy there, especially since Nathan, one of the scientists, wants to alter his "mind". With the help of Trashbot, Proto the  robotic dog, a computerized auto named Car, and his sister, ADA, Cog breaks out of uniMind and sets off on a mission to find Gina. Cog seems to have odd powers that can occasionally control other robots, which is why uniMind wants to study him, so they are of course in hot pursuit. The group of gizmos gets into all sorts of scrapes along the way, many involving the unwise use of Car! ADA turns out to be a destructive/offensive unit, so has some untold depth of weaponry and tactics hidden within her system, which helps the group evade capture for a while, but they are eventually brought in by the police. When Nathan arrives to take them back to headquarters, Cog knows that he doesn't have their best interest at heart. Will Cog be able to prevent his brain being probed for the unknown X-Module that gives him extra capabilities?
Strengths: Cog is a fun character, and books with road trips, especially when it's escaping evil scientists, are always in demand. I loved ADA and her latent destructive capabilities! This is a book that had my children read it when they were young, they would have gone around acting like Cog and reenacting scenes from the book! Readers who enjoyed Pattersons House of Robots or Richards' Robots Rule! series will enjoy this one.
Weaknesses: Cog talked like a robot and sometimes doesn't seem to understand the human world. This is used well for humorous effect, but wouldn't a cognitive development model be better used interacting with other children from the beginning and becoming fluent in their language? The target demographic won't get this, but I kept thinking about it, mainly because of the "robots" currently in use in people's homes that are programmed to interact vocally, like Siri and Alexa.
What I really think: Van Eekhout does great middle grade science fiction books, including Voyage of the Dogs, The Boy at the End of the World (2011),  and Kid vs. Squid (2010). My readers who like robots tend to want more serious books about them, so I'm debating this one even though I would definitely purchase it for an elementary library.

No comments:

Post a Comment