Review: Set My Heart to Five

Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my favorite book of 2022 so far. I don’t remember what it was about the write-up on the Big Idea section of Scalzi’s blog that caused me to add this book to my TBR pile, but I’m glad I did.

As the description of the book says, our main character is a bot who suddenly finds himself experiencing emotions. What made the book an almost non-stop read for me was the voice in which the story is told. It’s as if Jared is telling us, conversationally, the story of what happened to him. To imagine the tone of this narration, imagine if Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation and the alien from Resident Alien were combined and then wrote their descriptions of humanity and all the weird things we do as we navigate the world. One example:

“BTW a strip club is an establishment where humans pay other humans bitcoin to sexually frustrate them. I do not know why.”

This is definitely a book that you will either find delightful or utterly hate because it’s very dependent upon enjoying the tone of the narration. The book itself is a bit of a meta-commentary on storytelling and, as such, follows pretty typical story beats. A running gag is that Jared is reading a book about screenwriting and each time he gets to one of the rules of screenwriting, usually he’s going to experience that rule in the story he’s telling us. So if you don’t like the narration, the story’s not going to save it. (Although there was one twist that really surprised me)

So I strongly recommend it, but I understand that if you aren’t tickled by jokes like:

“The human I interacted with most frequently there was my assistant, Angela.

Some relevant data points about Angela:

/She was employed as both receptionist and hygienist, but resented the receptionist element of her job.
/She loved cats but believed she was allergic to orange ones.
/It is not immunologically possible to be allergic to a specific color of cat.
/That Angela believed that she was allergic to orange cats is what mattered.
/To humans, Feelings > Facts.

You will probably hate it. I loved it.

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