The Mother Code by Carole Stivers started out as a very intriguing read for me. Reading a book about a mysterious (or perhaps not so mysterious to many of our characters) disease spreading throughout the globe leading to the decimation of the world’s population while actually living in a global pandemic is a thought-provoking experience, to say the least. Regardless, the content of this novel in light of the current state of the world may be triggering for some, which is definitely an important caveat when reading this book. This sci-fi and nearly-postapocalyptic story explores interesting questions of humanity and technology in a world struggling to stay alive in the hands of genetically modified children with robots for mothers and the few remaining survivors who created them.
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?
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I really did enjoy the way the Stivers created the structure of the book in distinct timelines. TheMother Code bounces back and forth between the children created to be immune to the disease in the future and the minds that created them in the past. As the stories progress, eventually the timelines to do merge together. I think this was done very well and created so many layers to the story and complexity that benefited the overall book. I will say, pay attention from the beginning to the years given at each chapter, that will help you to better conceptualize where (or more so when) the characters are in reference to each other.
I thought that the question of humanity and technology was an important avenue that was explored at the beginning of The Mother Code with the scientists who were all involved in the creation of these children and their bot mothers. Unfortunately, I think that discussion took an odd turn towards the middle to end of the book that felt unfocused. I’m not sure if that was because at this point these questions were addressed from the point of view of children and the mother bots.
I enjoyed the slight cultural aspects that were present in The Mother Code, with the roles of the Hopi Native Americans and references to banyan trees and Hindi culture. I thought this would have been an even more interesting aspect for Stivers to focus on. With much of the conversation being centered on the concerns of the humanity of the mother bots, leading to culture being imprinted into them, it seems like this part of the mother bots should have been discussed more.
I’m still undecided on the characters that were in The Mother Code. I felt that to a certain degree, in the beginning, many of the adult/pre-disease characters had actual personalities and things that made them unique. Eventually, however, I felt like that attempt at characterization fell to the wayside. Also, I was not compelled by the childrens’ characters. I’m not sure if that is just because they are young and mostly socialized by robots, though. So that is why I’m left undecided.
Overall I did like The Mother Code, the basis for the story is interesting (if not eerily familiar) and I enjoy how Stivers created her narrative structure. The beginning of The Mother Code, was very strong and set the stage for an awesome sci-fi tale. Unfortunately, I felt that the plot dwindled as we got closer to the end and I was left with a “huh, I guess that’s it” feeling.
Find The Mother Code on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.