Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson is a hard book to explain. Partly because it defies genre and partly because it isn’t really about what it appears to be about. Let’s start with the genre, my library copy had three stickers on the spine – Science Fiction, Humor, and Social Issues. Besides these categories, it is written in an interesting style with regular prose sections and then sections written as if part of a screenplay. Moving on to the plot, it may appear to be a story set in the future about bots, but it is really a story about humanity in today’s world. The book is also a homage to old movies.
The story centers around Jared, a bot dentist (because in the future real people don’t want to be dentist)s. The story is told from Jared’s perspective. As a bot, he has a lot to say about what those illogical humans do. This invites commentary on a whole world of things – from the crazy way we name stuff – to social etiquette rules – to people getting drunk – to the death of great movie making – to human’s poor driving skills – and lots more. His comments on these and other social issues are not only hysterical, they are spot on!
One day Jared discovers he has started to develop feelings, something that should never happen to a bot. This leads Jared on an adventure. He takes us along on this adventure and you will really love Jared – he has a charming, distinctive voice.
This book is very funny and sweet, but also makes you reflect on humanity. It reminds me of “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, which is really high praise from me. Overall just a wonderful read. Stephenson is a screenwriter for Pixar (it shows in how he writes “scenes”) and I read that this book has been optioned for a movie.