Review: Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson

I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.

Publisher: Fourth Estate

Published: May 2020

Pages: 356



Set in a 2054 where humans have locked themselves out of the internet and Elon Musk has incinerated the moon, Set My Heart to Five is the hilarious yet profoundly moving story of one android’s emotional awakening.

Unhappy with his programmed job of dentistry and inspired by a love of classic movies, Jared sets out on a bold mission: to use the power of his burgeoning feelings to forever change the world for him and all his kind. Unfortunately, Jared intends to do this by writing his own movie, and things do not proceed according to plan…

Unlike anything you have ever read before, Set My Heart to Five is a book for anybody who has feelings, loves movies, and likes to laugh and cry and sometimes do both at the same time. It comes uniquely guaranteed to make its readers weep a minimum of 29mls of tears.*

*Book must be read in controlled laboratory conditions arranged at reader’s own expense. Other terms and conditions may apply to this offer.

My Thoughts…

Set My Heart to Five is one of the most original and quirky books I have read in a long time. Set in a near future where humans have destroyed most things on Earth (and the moon), this story is narrated by Jared, a bot made to look exactly like a human with one big difference: he has no capacity for feelings. Things become complicated for Jared once he realises that he is starting to experience feelings in spite of his programming and has to learn how to understand them with the help of his new friend Dr Gludenstein and lots of old movies. This brings him to the realisation that he must use his new understanding to write a movie of his own which will finally reconcile humans and bots… and become a fugitive in the process.

I found the book a bit hard to get into initially, particularly as I struggled to follow Jared’s unique way of speaking and his constant use of expressions like “10/10”  and “I cannot!”. Once I got the hang of it though, I found this to be one of the most delightful reads this year. Jared’s quest to prove that bots are not all murderous unfeeling machines becomes a touching reflection on what it means to be human and to love, while delicately raising questions around diversity and discrimination.

This book clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously and there were several points where I laughed out loud. The parallels between Jared’s journey and the movies he enjoys were great fun, and actually made me want to brush up on some classical movies I have yet to watch. One thing I struggled with though was Jared’s over-explaining. It was entirely fitting with his character, but ended up feeling repetitive and slowed the book down quite a lot. Part of the middle section felt especially dragging, but the ending more than made up for it. I was having ALL the feelings too!

Overall, this was a great discovery, and I’m glad I stuck with it despite the initial struggle. I laughed, I cried, and I fell in love with this little toaster with a heart.

Rating: 4/5


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