*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Mother Code by Carol Stivers #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheMotherCodebookreview


I put this one down feeling rather conflicted. It’s an ambitious book in its scope, as Stivers attempts to take the classic apocalyptic lethal plague scenario and give it an interesting twist.

BLURB: The year is 2049. When a deadly non-viral agent intended for biowarfare spreads out of control, scientists must scramble to ensure the survival of the human race. They turn to their last resort, a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots–to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order–an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right–the Mother Code.

Kai is born in America’s desert southwest, his only companion his robot Mother, Rho-Z. Equipped with the knowledge and motivations of a human mother, Rho-Z raises Kai and teaches him how to survive. But as children like Kai come of age, their Mothers transform too–in ways that were never predicted. When government survivors decide that the Mothers must be destroyed, Kai must make a choice. Will he break the bond he shares with Rho-Z? Or will he fight to save the only parent he has ever known?

REVIEW: After I started reading this one, I discovered that Stivers is a scientist – which is evident by all the techy details she became engrossed in, which as far as I was concerned, slightly held up the pace. This book isn’t presented as a hard sci fi read – and the fact that a lot of the science surfaced at several crucial points, where the pacing should have been increasing didn’t help my bonding with the main characters.
I think this book had the potential to be a truly great read – but Stivers hasn’t quite pulled it off and that is because the story can’t make up its mind what it’s trying to do. It could have been a quirky, hard sci fi adventure about how saving the species got messed up from the viewpoint of the key scientists as the survivors desperately try to outwit the lethal robots protecting them. Or it could have been a gritted survival adventure from the viewpoint of the children battling to stay alive in the desert, accompanied by their robotic mothers. But what Stivers tried to do was straddle both stories and the result is a bit of a hot mess, particularly by the end.

I found it a rather frustrating read, because just as I was starting to care about one of the characters, the viewpoint shifted yet again, which meant that I didn’t bond with anyone in the book, though I came close to caring about poor little Kai and James Said. It didn’t help that I’m not a fan of the apocalyptic scenario where there is a steady attrition of main characters, but in fairness to me – this one wasn’t marketed as that kind of book. It’s a shame, because Stivers isn’t a bad writer and if only she’d had an editor who had given her more clarity as to what she really wanted to do with this story, it could have been awesome. Apparently, Stephen Spielberg has bought the rights to the story, and I’ll be interested to see if he’ll tell the more interesting, quirkier story – or turn it into a Hollywood cliché.

Recommended for fans who enjoy their apocalyptic adventures with a dollop of hard sci fi. The ebook arc copy of The Mother Code was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.

21 responses »

  1. I have a copy of this, but most of the reviews I’ve read are similar to yours. I may not have time to read it anyway, though. Thanks for your review, Sarah!

    • Yes – there is the potential here to have been an amazing read, instead of just being okay. I am rather sad, as I think Stivers has been badly let down by poor editing advice.

  2. An interesting concept but it sounds like the story gets rather bogged down in all the detail. Your descriptions actually remind me a little of I Am Mother on Netflix which I quite enjoyed so it’s likely I’d watch whatever Spielberg comes up with and give the book a miss!

    • It wasn’t so much the detail – as there were two separate storylines running alongside each other. And instead of tightly knitting them into a whole, they went on fighting one another. I really think Stivers needed to make some hard decisions as to what she was writing and go with the one that called the most to her…

  3. I just finished this one as well and have many of the same feelings about it you did. The premise was fascinating and eerily timely, but I found it hard to connect with any of the characters and it also seemed like the whole story just ended abruptly and jumped to an epilogue.

  4. This sounds eerily like a Netflix (?) movie called Mother, which was about a girl raised from baby to adult by a robot in an underground facility. Then another adult woman invades the facility, and there’s all this intrigue and drama…yes, as you say, a story like this can be done right, but you can’t spend forever on the science, and you have to have a direction you want to take. If you’re unsure of your own…message? theme?….then maybe it’s time to return to the drawing board….

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