Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Perfect Wife

The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney
Penguin Random House: 8/6/19
eBook review copy; 432 pages
ISBN-13: 9781524796747

The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney is a recommended domestic thriller featuring artificial intelligence.

Five years after her death, Tim Scott, the founder of Scott Robotics, has created a cobot, or companion robot, of his wife, Abbie Cullen-Scott. Abbie, the cobot, has memories, but not all memories, only those Tim has chosen to download. She knows she was an artist, mother, good cook, and a surfer. Tim, however, won't tell Abbie how she died. Abbie, while trying to regain whatever memories or knowledge she can, learns that she supposedly drowned in a surfing accident, but a body was never recovered and Tim faced murder charges in her death.

After starting out as an intriguing premise with the possibility of The Perfect Wife becoming a compelling addition to the science fiction genre, it soon became clear that little significant sci-fi evolution in the plot was actually going to happen. The novel, after the exciting opening, suddenly becomes a domestic thriller along the lines of the "new" woman researching the former wife. Few facts and little real usage was made of the AI needed to make a cobot and program one to resemble a dead person. In order to continue reading, I had to set my love of hard sci-fi aside.

The narrative unfolds through the points-of-view of Abbie the cobot and the Scott Robotics employees. The chapters alternate between the past and present and are told in the second and third person omniscient. It feels awkward when reading. What does work is the depiction of Danny, Tim and Abbie's Autistic son. Danny is the only character who felt real, believable. I'm afraid the rest of the characters fell a bit flat for me.

Viewing The Perfect Wife as a domestic thriller, with the new wife researching the previous wife, is what kept my interest in the plot. In that aspect, the writing certainly kept things moving and propelled the plot forward. The ending, however, was a let down, as were the many plot points left hanging.  This novel is okay - a good airplane book.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

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