This Is Me, by C.E. Wilson

It doesn’t take too much effort to look through the review list on this blog to see that I’m a fan of author C.E. Wilson. What I like most about her work is the lens she uses to present deep or important themes. The situations in her stories fall into the speculative fiction genre, but they’re always grounded in the real world.

This Is Me is no exception. We have a story that is set in the real world—or at least a parallel real world or not-to-distant future of our world—where there are sentient humanoid androids existing among the humans. Some people believe the androids should have equal rights, including the right to have romantic relationships with humans; others do not feel this way. It’s an intriguing way to tackle difficult subjects of prejudice and racism.

Also, there’s a love triangle in the story. The main character, Chloe, has to choose between two romantic partners: Niven, who is competing for the same music teacher job she is; and Rogan, the Asist (Anthropomorphic Sentient Individualized Servile uniT) her parents paid for to watch over and protect her while she lived and taught in the city.

Going into this book, I was really curious about which one of them—if either—Chloe would choose in the end. Wilson often ends her stories in unexpected yet provocative ways (see the ending of her excellent New Adult urban fantasy romance The Promise), so I envisioned multiple possibilities that could punctuate her theme.

Despite such strong ideas, a few things in the book didn’t quite work for me. Some of them are minor, such as the overall length of the book and the uncertainty of when the book takes place. There are a few pop culture references to the modern world, but then it would have to be an alternate timeline where robotics has progressed to the point of extremely lifelike androids. Neither of these are too problematic on their own, but there are some other issues.

The book is narrated in third-person omniscient, which isn’t necessarily a bad choice as there are some plot elements that dictate it be told this way instead of in first-person (like most of Wilson’s other books). However, in doing so, there’s a little too much head-hopping, and some of the shifts are so abrupt, I had to stop to figure out who’s head the narration was in. Additionally, I feel a little too much time was spent in the primary antagonist’s head. I won’t name the character, but I didn’t want to know as much of the character’s thoughts, almost as if the reader was supposed to receive justification for some of the character’s unsavory actions. I didn’t want to attempt feeling any sympathy for this character, and based on the character’s actions by the end of the book, no sympathy is deserved. Also, since this character’s behavior is no surprise to the reader, the impact of it being a surprise to Chloe is diminished.

Then there’s the love triangle. I have nothing wrong with love triangles in books if done well. And I was hoping to see Chloe’s half of the triangle with Rogan develop differently. Since human-Asist relations are frowned upon by some, I really would have liked to see her wrestle with emerging feelings for Rogan instead of their relationship starting with a kind of friends-with-benefits status. By starting there, the introduction of Niven makes Chloe somewhat selfish.

Rogan is an exceptionally well-conceived character. For a fictional robotic character, he’s perhaps one of the most real characters in the book. When the narration hops to his head, it provides great insight into his character. It’s very easy to cheer for him when he’s up and gasp when bad things happen to him—his emotions and actions are clear.

Another stand-out set of characters include Chloe’s colleague at work Fitz and his mini-Asist Bree. First off, Bree is a nice shout-out to technology’s desire to make devices smaller, as she stands less than a foot tall. Secondly, she and Fitz are openly in a romantic relationship, and it serves as a strong counterpoint to the more prejudiced characters in the book. Forget the perception of a human-Asist relationship, but one with a mini-Asist would be more taboo. They perfectly demonstrate that we as people have and deserve the right to love however we want.

And that’s my biggest takeaway from the book. Love is love, and if two people love each other, then their size, gender, ethnicity, and/or programming don’t matter. Let people love who they want and stop judging. I admire the message and concept here, but the book dragged in places through some unnecessary head-hopping, so I’m giving the book THREE AND A HALF STARS.

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This Is Me is available at Amazon.

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