Book Review: Uncanny Valley by C.A. Gray

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Title: Uncanny Valley
Series: Uncanny Valley #1
Author: C.A. Gray
Narrator: Melissa Williams
Publisher: Wanderlust Publishing
Publication Date: March 27, 2018

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Uncanny Valley
Uncanny Valley #1
C.A. Gray
Narrated by Melissa Williams
Wanderlust Publishing, March 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

Rebecca Cordeaux knows exactly what her future will hold: she will marry Andy, her crush of the last five years. Once Andy is ready to settle down, she’s sure he will discover that she is his soulmate. After several small parts on stage, Rebecca knows she can become a renowned actress. Her writing also shows promise as a future author. Robots perform most human jobs that can be automated, leaving many free to pursue their personal creative interests.

But Rebecca’s mother Karen fears the new world of robots, and insists her brilliant daughter join a university research team, studying the hazards of a complete robotic economy. Rebecca’s father Quentin was obsessed with the subject to a degree that even her mother considered absurd, prior to his untimely death. So long as she can reserve enough of her time to pursue her true passions on the side, Rebecca half-heartedly agrees to join the research team, if only to please her widowed mother. There she joins a post-doc named Liam, whose conspiracy theories rival even those of her late father.

Liam is convinced that world Republic leader William Halpert’s worldwide challenge for researchers to develop synthetic creativity will lead not to the promised utopia, in which every kind of human suffering has been eradicated, but rather to an apocalypse. Rebecca, whose best friend is her own companion bot Madeline, writes Liam off as a bot-hating conspiracy theorist, just like her father was…until she learns that her father’s death might not have been due to mere happenstance.

With Liam’s help, Rebecca learns of an underground organization known as The Renegades, where Quentin Cordeaux was considered a legend. While Liam attempts to stop Halpert’s challenge if he can, Rebecca tries to unravel the mystery of what happened to her father. Did he and many of his contemporaries die for something they knew? Who is the mysterious informant who calls himself John Doe, and only seems to want to drive her out of harm’s way? And if Halpert’s challenge is answered, will it usher in a brave new chapter in humanity’s history… or were Quentin Cordeaux’s dire predictions right all along?

I won’t take any time re-hashing the core storyline since the publisher’s description is very thorough, almost too much so. Instead, I’ll focus on what I liked and didn’t like and, this being science fiction, my first thoughts have to be about worldbuilding.

Any speculative fiction needs a strong sense of when, where and how and I have to say there’s a lack here. Certain cities are named occasionally, like Dublin and Geneva, but I got no real sense of when this was taking place or how society had arrived at a bot-driven existence. As a result, I couldn’t get a grasp of how long the bots had been so prevalent nor how long a few conspiracy theorists had been working to stop further development.

The primary characters, on the other hand, were quite well-drawn and I felt I knew them well. That doesn’t mean I liked them all and, in fact, one of the romantic leads plucked my last nerve with his controlling ways although I also saw his good points. The bad guys, Halpert in particular, were appropriately callous and remote and, as for Rebecca, this was a girl I understood. She’s young enough to be starry-eyed about a guy, smart enough to get involved with some serious research and education, well-rounded enough to have other interests and attached enough to her mother to want to please her. In short, she’s a normal young woman.

Narrator Melissa Williams does a credible job with a pleasing tone, good pacing and clear enunciation but I don’t hear much vocal distinction between the characters. Still, I enjoy listening to her.

All that said, my favorite character of all is Madeline, a very small personal bot. Madeline is a pure delight and a great friend to Rebecca even while she’s just shy of having true emotions. This little mechanical creature is involved in the heavy-duty cliffhanger at the end and she’s the reason I’m going to have to read the next book 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2018.

About the Author

By day, C.A. Gray is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) with a primary care practice in Tucson, AZ, and she writes medical books under her real name (Dr. Lauren Deville). She lives with her husband, with whom she maintains a facetiously contentious movie review blog, and travels as often as they can get away. When not writing or seeing patients, she does yoga, drinks red wine while eating dark chocolate, and consumes audiobooks like there’s no tomorrow!

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About the Narrator

Melissa lives with her family, including two dogs and a cat, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Denver, Colorado.

After having a corporate job for most of her life, and as a self-proclaimed introvert, she decided to leave corporate America to work from home. Voice overs had always tugged at her heart as something she would like to explore, so she attended some classes and landed with a company that taught her how to break in to the industry.

Loving to read, she explored the fast growing world of audiobooks and fell in love with it. She has ten audiobooks under her belt and is currently working on the 11th. Understanding that she should always be learning how to improve her skills, she is currently working with Sean Pratt.

When not talking to herself in a padded room, she can be found walking her dog, singing or fishing the Arkansas River.

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Play an excerpt here.

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