Book Title: How To Pass as Human – A Guide to Assimilation For Future Androids
Author: Nic Kelman (writer), Pericles Junior (illustrator)
Style: Illustrated novel, faux-reference guide
Target Audience: Adults
Genres: Science Fiction
Page Count: 232
Reading time: 2 hours
Format: Hardcover collection (library)
My impressions: Ugh. This book looked promising when I was flipping through it at the library, but I wound up hating it very early on, and never felt better about it as I continued. (That’s the drawback of my rule about having to stick with books once I start them!)
The conceit is that this is a guide written for androids who want to blend in to modern society, and so it’s a very scientific-sounding look at human behavior using a “blind alien” sort of approach where everything is under scrutiny and the android is trying to make sense of all the data he is collecting. In concept, this should be a delight to read, deconstructing humanity into insightful observations or revealing really strange and humorous things about ourselves.
The problem is, it’s not smart and it’s not funny. It’s the equivalent of a high school kid writing a very serious guide to life applying some smart-sounding formulae and graphs, but completely failing to pass on anything more than conventional wisdom. The main character, Android 0, experiences the world at its most banal and stereotypical, cataloguing insights such as “Men hang sports paraphernalia on their walls, while women have lots of purses” or “humans think about the other gender (if heterosexual) 69.4213% of the time.” And this isn’t just me cherry-picking the silly stuff; the entire book’s written like this.
Android 0 does experience a narrative, and it involves (quite early on) falling in love with a bespectacled hot girl video game programmer who gets kidnapped as Android 0 searches for his father. After she’s located and the story sort of sputters out, the big conclusion is that because Android 0 occasionally acted positively despite his negative stimuli, he is somehow human. And then, because of that, it’s time for sex.
I haven’t read any other works by this author (who’s written some other sci-fi), but I suspect they’re very much in the shallow end of the pool. For all the pretension of this book and citations to academic sources, it’s surprisingly light on anything resembling insight about what it means to be human. Unlike Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which had a lot to say about the deep interplay of empathy and humanity, this book has a lot to say, but it’s just a bunch of noise about the superficial aspects of the human experience. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, least of all an android – one would hope an artificial being wouldn’t need such a banal reference.