the cover for In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune
  • STAR RATING:  4.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 432 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: April 25, 2023
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Genocide, Dementia, Grief, Death
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Thank you to Netgalley and Tor Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots–fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe.

The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio-a past spent hunting humans.

When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.

Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?

Author TJ Klune invites you deep into the heart of a peculiar forest and on the extraordinary journey of a family assembled from spare parts.

I truly was not sure if I should request this book when I saw it pop up on Netgalley. I absolutely adore Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea, and his Green Creek series, but the last book I read by him — Under the Whispering Door — just did not click with me. I was worried that I had outgrown Klune’s work, and that I would never like another book by him. But I decided to chance it, and clicked REQUEST TITLE. Tor has always been nice to me, so they accepted my request, and here I am to tell you that (drum roll please) I absolutely loved In the Lives of Puppets. Klune has an absolutely dreamy way of talking about life, death, love, and grief that just really resonates (most of the time). Thankfully, all of the characters in In the Lives of Puppets were easy to like. There were no Wallaces here. (He was my main problem with Under the Whispering Door, but that’s neither here nor there.) Klune’s character work really shines here, and I am so happy to say that I just really loved this book.

In fact, the characters were really what brought this book to life. Our main character is Vic, a young man — a human in a world taken over by robots/machines. He is seemingly the only human left on earth, and his humanity really wears off on the machines around him. Said machines were all hilarious, heart-warming, and ah. I just adored them. Especially Nurse Ratched — she was laugh out loud funny a lot of the time. Same with Rambo, who I pictured as a roomba. What a little cinnamon roll. Victor’s father, Gio, was a human-shaped machine, and he had a heart of gold, despite his past. And lastly, but not leastly, there’s Hap. I won’t spoil what he is, but oh. He ends up breaking your heart, and putting it back together. Klune once again wins at the found-family game with this cast. Like, he just knocks it out of the park.

The plot was interesting enough to keep my attention, and I loved all the side characters, but I had one glaring issue with this book. Exactly how old was Victor supposed to be? He comes across as being very young, but I think that comes from being raised by literal machines, and being very naive. Throughout the whole book, I was thinking he was somewhere from like….16-19ish. Which would have been fine, if there hadn’t been a tiny little romance plot sprinkled in. As a whole, the romance didn’t bother me, but honestly? The book really didn’t need it. It would have been a fantastic example of a book strictly about familial love without it. But saying that, it didn’t hurt the book, either.

Either way, I really, really liked In the Lives of Puppets, and I am so so glad that I can go back to saying I like Klune’s work again! Four and a half glowing stars.

IN THE LIVES OF PUPPETS comes out APRIL 25, 2023.

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