Sparked

Sparked

Sparked was first published in 2015 and is Sheena Snow’s debut novel. It’s a science-fiction romance story about a teenage girl who discovers that her perfect match is an android. The novel is the first part of a planned series but at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

When the American Government announced that robots would be made available to the general public, the country became absolutely mad for them. Although human in appearance, the automatons possessed no emotion or free will and were programmed to perform certain tasks. However, eighteen year old Vienna Avery is less convinced. She knows that the Government is lying and that the robots can’t be trusted.

When her family purchase Robotatouille, a French chef robot, she doesn’t know what to do. Even though they assure her that he is perfectly safe, she is not convinced. She’s sure that he’s smarter than he seems and strange things start happening soon after he arrives. An explosion rocks the kitchen and a strange man begins following Vienna. She knows it can’t be a coincidence but no one will believe her.

Things change when a powerful robot tries to kidnap Vienna in the night. Robotatouille defends her, proving that robots are far more intelligent than humans ever imagined. It turns out that he was sent to protect her from the bad robots that are out to capture her. While Robotatouille remains to ensure her parents are safe, Vienna is spirited away by his commander – a green-eyed robot named Alec. He assures Vienna that he will keep her safe but how can she possibly trust him when she knows he isn’t human?

Sparked is one of those incredibly frustrating books that sound intriguing but fall down in their execution. I have to admit that I was attracted by its blurb. It promised a kind of paranormal romance story that I haven’t seen before on this blog – Twilight with robots – which I thought would be really interesting to look at. There are a lot of ethical questions that could be explored in this premise, such as the nature of humanity and what constitutes a soul. Unfortunately, that’s a long way from what Sparked delivered.

The issues with this story are purely with its execution. The entire novel just felt like a first draft and so was riddled with silly little errors that should have been whittled out during the lengthy process of editing and redrafting. The issues ranged from continuity errors (Robotatouille was sometimes a French chef and sometimes Italian), to repetition (Snow describes the hair and eye colour of every character that Vienna meets) to just generally confused writing.

Sparked is a really difficult novel for me to analyse, purely because I’m really not sure what happened. I managed to vaguely follow the story up until the point where Vienna was captured by the Government but after this point the narrative completely broke down. On the most basic level, I’m not sure why they were hunting her, let alone what was to be gained by her “torture”.

The torture itself was pretty bizarre. It consisted of exploiting her weakness to the cold (note: prior to this Vienna had only expressed a mild dislike for cold weather so I’m not sure why the Government latched onto this). After this, they just let her go and she resumes her normal life. Really, it makes such little sense. More than anything, this story just needed a pretty brutal edit.

At times, I could see what Snow was trying to do but the writing was so weak that I really had to read between the lines to do so. Sometimes, I even wondered if I was reading too much. Was Vienna even human? At times, I got this kind of Blade Runner vibe that made me wonder if she was a “half robot” like Alec and his team but I’m not sure if this was what Snow was going for. It would have made sense if Vienna was a robot as it would give the Government added incentive to go after her but it wouldn’t entirely make sense. Even the half-robots were really just machines covered in human skin (as far as I could tell) and there was no indication that Vienna had been adopted into her very human family.

Further issues could be found within the development of the principal cast. The reader is frequently told what attributes characters are supposed to possess (i.e. people frequently tell Vienna what a wonderful person she is) but the characters don’t really show any personality themselves. A good example of this is Vienna’s mother. Until she and Vienna had their argument (which was sparked by next to nothing), I didn’t get the impression that she was a negligent mother. However, Vienna tells the reader over and over again that her mother found her to be a constant disappointment and didn’t care about her at all. I suppose this could just have been teen angst but Vienna’s attitude and her mother’s behaviour didn’t seem to match up.

Naturally, as the protagonist, Vienna is the character who receives the most development in the story. Unfortunately, she also incredibly dislikable from the very first page. She spends half of the book being really prejudiced towards robots for no good reason. Why didn’t she trust them? Why did she just assume that the government was lying about them? I couldn’t see anything in the text that explained this. It’s almost like she plucked her suspicion right out of thin air.

Her relationship with Alec is also really lacking. It’s another example of my least favourite paranormal romance trope – insta-love. The two didn’t really have much chemistry (Alec was a robot, Vienna couldn’t stand to be in the same room as a robot) but they were shoe-horned into a relationship due to an “electron imbalance”. This seemed to function in the same was as werewolf imprinting in the Twilight series only it made even less sense. Who would design it so humans could imprint on robots? Can robots even have physical relationships (as they’re mainly designed for combat and espionage, it seems unlikely). This was certainly something that warranted further explanation.

Beyond Vienna and Alec, there was little by the way of character development. Alec’s team have a little differentiation by way of personality but we never really get to see them in action. We’re told about their different abilities and there is some brief exposition about Bonnie’s tragic past but none of this really affects the proceedings at all. Similarly, Vienna’s friends and family virtually drop out of the story after the opening chapters. It seemed strange to build upon their friendship (or rather, strange preoccupation with forcing Vienna into an unwanted relationship) only for it to be largely insignificant.

All in all, Sparked just isn’t a story that I can recommend. I don’t like putting down independent novels but the story is just so confusing. I really can’t recommend purchasing a book that is still in need of a strict redraft and the skills of a decent editor.

Sparked can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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