Friday, 7 March 2014

Echo Boy by Matt Haig

From the moment I started Echo Boy, I didn't want to put it down. And that was annoying, because I had a very busy week, so my sleep has suffered a bit. But the joy of reading this book was worth those lost hours of sleep. 

Echo Boy takes place in the future - not so distant that it seems impossibly far away, but long enough that it's possible and believable. In This future, the planet has been ravaged by extreme weather. Most of the UK is underwater, but despite these seemingly severe problems, humans have adapted amazingly well by developing new technologies. Houses are built on stilts, transport is on elevated magrails, and lifespan has improved immensely. The most noticeable technological advancements, though, are the Echos (Enhanced Computerised Humanoid Organisms): biological machines made of flesh and blood like a human, but still very robotic in manner. They have no ability to feel emotions or even disobey commands. But aside from these cognitive differences, they are more life-like than any other machinery that has ever existed. While many people in this world see the technological developments as a benefit to society, there are just as many people who are concerned and even scared for the future of humanity as these machines become increasingly intelligent.

Audrey's father is one of those who is strongly against the new technologies, actively writing about and protesting against developments. Yet it's his brother and Audrey's uncle, Alex Castle, who is at the helm of the all-powerful Castle Industries, driving these technological developments. And it's when Audrey ends up in her uncle's home that she meets Daniel - an Echo who doesn't seem quite right. His stare isn't blank like other Echos, and he seems to keep trying to tell her something.

What impressed me most with Echo Boy was Haig's desire to work out what it truly means to be human, and at what point is something classified as being "alive". Haig has a real understanding of how humans feel and portray emotion, and also how confusing certain feelings can be, particularly when they go against all logic. This is a book that you can really get into and enjoy, even though it may leave you asking much bigger questions. Echo Boy is a gripping read, not just for the need to find out what will happen, but discovering why everything else has. 

Echo Boy is published on March 27th by Bodley Head, a division of Random House Children's Publishers

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