Bringing interstellar science fiction into the ambit of a futuristic introspection on identity, Lauren James’ The Starlight Watchmaker succeeds in raising some of the most pertinent questions familiar to dystopian narratives; where do we draw the line between the ‘biological’ and the ‘artificial’?
At the same time, her brisk, humorous and imaginatively rich mystery narrative manages to locate this question within a space largely untouched by the bleak cynicism of dystopian fiction as we understand it.
The story follows the familiar pattern of a mystery narrative; an android and a living being striking up a peculiar friendship as they discover how a simple act of sabotage could potentially be linked to a conspiracy of catastrophic proportions. The storytelling itself comes across as a little stilted at times, and the character development is often arrested by generalisations.
The protagonist Hugo provides an insightful look into issues like resentment and sentience, but a frequently repetitive labouring of his emotional evolution is a little exhausting and mars the otherwise wonderful effect.
Overall, James’ book is a quick, interesting read, and is more than capable of introducing young readers to the genre of dystopian fiction as a whole.