This was very sweet and a little bit unhinged, which I of course always appreciate. This is actually a bit more in line with Klune’s self-published stuff, with darker themes and humor with a little more of an edge to it. I am REALLY curious to know what the original story in this book looked like; he’s vague in the end notes but apparently somebody told him the world wasn’t ready for it (????) and things were changed up pretty heavily.
There are some light premise/plot spoilers below, so proceed accordingly.
This is a loose retelling of the original Pinocchio story by Carlo Collodi. I’ve never actually read that version, only seen the Disney movie many times as a kid (and once as an adult—still terrifying), but even so the players are there, and the themes (what makes someone a “real boy?” aka a person) are pretty on point as well. I enjoyed those aspects of the story, but Klune takes it further than that, and all my favorite stuff in the book came from that. I also thought he used the idea of puppets in a pretty subtle way, which was a bit of a change for him. Usually he makes his subtext text, which is dangerous because that can easily turn into schmoopsiness, which is the reason I have not given his previous two standalones five stars. I am using the word “which” too much.
Part of the reason this is my favorite of his books that I’ve read is that the darker elements and themes balanced out his tendency towards schmoop. The story is set in a future world where humans created robots, and the robots decided humanity was a very bad idea and killed us all. My “the robots will kill us all” Goodreads shelf has never been more apt.
The very end of the book felt a little bereft of stakes (maybe this is the part he changed?). The SPOILERS love interest/important-character-gets-amnesia-but-don’t-worry-he’ll-recover-by-the-end storyline is not one that has ever really worked for me, and the many times I’ve seen it in pop culture and books has only reinforced that. I’m still salty about the series finale of the TV show Chuck END SPOILERS. But I loved Victor and his relationship with his father, Gio. I love poor, tortured Hap. I loved the buddy comedy that was Nurse Ratched and Rambo. I love that Victor is ace!
I think this might be one that I eventually bump up to five stars.
CBR BINGO: On the Road (Victor, Hap, Nurse Ratched, and Rambo go on a road trip to rescue Gio.)