Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Judd Trichter
Reviewed by Mike Phelps
You cannot read Judd Trichter’s Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction without being reminded of Philip K. Dick’s work. The comparisons are obvious: film noir, androids and a dark, crumbling Los Angeles. But Trichter does more than just copy it; in some ways he picks up where Dick left off. We aren’t just introduced to androids that look and act like people; we are forced to confront the possibility people and their mechanical creations are destined to interact in the most intimate ways. Eliot is in love with an android named Iris, but they have to keep it quiet because it’s illegal there are anti-android groups itching to bust an android’s head open or worse. Their relationship effectively erases the line between artificial life and life.
Iris goes missing and Eliot sets out on a fevered hunt to find her. When he learns she’s been dismembered and her parts sold off, he vows to reassemble her at any cost. Apparently, androids don’t have a soul; they exhibit an aura, a unique personality that makes them more than the sum of their parts. But Eliot needs all of her parts so follow Eliot into dark and seedy corners of L.A. as he picks over the refuse and every seedy character that might have a line on an arm or an eye. Eliot is compromised by guilt, painful memories and a nasty drug addiction that threaten to undo him before he completes his quest.
Eliot’s biggest struggle, however, is his fight to hold onto his humanity as finds himself willing to do pretty much anything to recover Iris. Trichter sets up a moral dilemma for Eliot that can’t be reconciled. He justifies taking the parts back from their new owners by arguing that they are only machines after all, yet he turns around and argues that Iris, his true love, is a unique individual worthy of his efforts. This moral ambiguity permeates the novel, but easy answers are in short supply. The story suggests some of these self-aware machines would eventually ask inconvenient questions about the order of things, reject the answers and then do something about it.
The couple’s future together, like the future of human-android relations itself, is left very much in doubt. Designed to serve humans, the androids seem poised to surpass them and Trichter gives us little hope they will be better masters.