Book Review: In the Lives of Puppets by T.J. Klune

About the Book:

Title: In the Lives of Puppets

Author: T.J. Klune

Page Length: 432

Publication Date: April 25, 2023

Publisher: Tor Books

Synopsis: In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots–fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe.

The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio-a past spent hunting humans.

When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.

Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?

Inspired by Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio, and like Swiss Family Robinson meets Wall-EIn the Lives of Puppets is a masterful stand-alone fantasy adventure from the beloved author who brought you The House in the Cerulean Sea and Under the Whispering Door.

LINKS:   Goodreads   |    Amazon

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My Review:

Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that can change everything when you least expect it.

I was so excited to get an advanced copy of In the Lives of Puppets. I love T.J. Klune’s works, and Under the Whispering Door is one of my all-time favorite reads. I enjoyed this one, but I also have some mixed feelings about parts of the story. I adored the main characters and the relationships, and the dialogue is exceptional. I also love the writing and Klune’s storytelling. The author has a way of touching your heartstrings and pulling you in from the start with endearing and memorable characters and storylines. Throughout my reading, I highlighted so many quotes that moved me or spoke to me in some way. Klune knows how to put in words feelings that are often inexplicable.

If you took iRobot, the beginning of WALL·E, Pinocchio, and The Wizard of Oz and smashed them all together with a little bit of Swiss Family Robinson, you would have this book. It has thought-provoking dystopian elements and messages, an epic journey, a beautiful love story between a father and a son, and a cool tree house made from scraps. But the stars of the book are the characters.

Like Klune’s other works, the found family in this story is brilliant. Vic’s bond with his father is wonderful. From the first chapter when Gio speaks of his love for baby Vic, I could feel the deep and true bond between father and son, and I hoped beyond hope that they would reunite. Vic’s new relationship with Hap, a humanoid Vic. Rambo, and Nurse Ratched save from the junkyard is also fabulous and heartwarming. I also loved Rambo and Nurse Ratched! Rambo is an anxious Roomba (so cute!), and Nurse Ratched reminded me of a snarky, sociopathic version of Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons. They are both quite devoted to Vic, the only human in the story, and they kind of remind me of the relationship Luke Skywalker had with R2D2 and C-3PO except way funnier. Rambo and Nurse Ratched’s conversations and endless dialogue are hilarious and charming, and there are so many laugh-out-loud moments. However, by the end, some of their joking became a bit too much.

The messages are also really powerful and thought-provoking. It’s a dystopia, so it makes you think about what brought society to this point. Is it possible to forgive? What makes us human? What makes a family? What lengths are you willing to go to for someone you love? Can people (and robots) change? What is the cost of indifference? There are so many interesting ideas explored. However, at the end of the book, I was left with some questions that weren’t answered, especially regarding the world and the background story. I was disappointed that these elements weren’t explored in more detail and resolved. I also thought the ending was a bit abrupt, especially since I was left with more questions than answers.

All in all, I enjoyed the story. The characters and writing style are amazing, and the story is very touching. I think fans of Klune or heartwarming sci-fi fantasies will enjoy the book, especially if they like strong and unique family units and futuristic worlds.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Tor Publishing for providing me with a copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.



Favorite Parts:

  • The characters.
  • The messages.
  • The humor.

Favorite Lines:

If there was ever perfection in this world, it would be you.

“You were made to bring happiness. You are alive in ways we are not. You are soft and fragile. But you are complex and disturbing and sometimes, foolishly brilliant. Yes, I think the wood will work.”

“All beings deserves a chance to find out what life could be when they don’t have to serve others.”

No civilization can survive indifference. It spreads like a poison, turning fire into apathy, a dire infection whose cure requires more than most are willing to give.

f-forgiving others could be difficult, but f-forgiving yourself c-can sometimes feel impossible.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: In the Lives of Puppets by T.J. Klune

  1. Great review, Julie! I’ve seen some mixed thoughts about this book and while I’m still excited to give it a read cos I always love Klune’s characters and found families, I probably won’t be racing to pick it up soon. That open-ending worries me cos I do like my endings neat! 😂

  2. Excellent review, Julie. I have both the audiobook and ebook so plan to do a read/listen next week. I love Klune’s characters and found family, but I am worried about the open ending. You have posed some great questions that I am already thinking about.

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