This was originally posted on my book blog, Reads & Feels.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Tin Men through Goodreads First Reader Program in exchange for an honest review.
When I picked up Tin Men by Christopher Golden, I was so ready for it. I mean I was frothing at the teeth. I hadn’t read military science fiction in quite a while and it was about time that I got something new. On the surface, Tin Men was relevant and interesting. When you dug down deeper it had some interesting character evolution going on. I walked awy from the novel feeling satisfied. It hit the itch just right, making me so content with the experience.
Tin Men is a novel that really ran with the near future what if. What if the US really did step further into the world police role? What if we found a way to do that more safely with our soldiers commanding remote infantry robots? What if other countries and groups of people got sick of the US trying to police everyone and maintain the peace? And most importantly what if they did something so drastic to stop it that it sent the whole world into chaos? That is what Tin men is really exploring and it does it well.
We are brought through the story through a number of relatively diverse characters. I say relatively because the story keeps it’s focus on the Tin men and those who have a direct relation to them. We aren’t seeing what happens to the laymen back at home when disaster strikes. We aren’t focused there. While that would be interesting I’m glad the focus was on the Tin Men. The Tin Men are soldiers that are piloting remote infantry robots. After the major event all Tin Men are trapped in their robot bodies unable to snap back into their own. This poses an interesting existential crisis for the characters and watching them deal is fascinating.
There is a large cast of characters. We’ve got Kate (the leader), Danny (the good man), Felix (the father), Alexa (the teenage daughter), Aimee (the techie), and Hanif (an anarchist). Those are just the POVs, not all the characters and you get an idea of how diverse things are. It made it interesting seeing how each character dealt with the situation at hand.
One of the things that I didn’t enjoy so much was how slow the beginning was. For a long time we were just seeing the characters go through life as normal. Then even after disaster hit, we were still saddled with wading through a lot of bureaucracy in the novel. That early part of the novel, while at times really interesting, dragged the entire tone of the early part of the book down. It was more of an establishment of how things were with little else.
However, once the novel picked up mid way things got a lot more interesting. I enjoyed seeing the characters deal with problems, situations, and emotions on the run. These were people being pursued and struggling to stay alive while on a mission. It was interesting watching them work through that. I also felt like the character building was much stronger in this section largely because the characters weren’t just speculating and talking out theoreticals. Instead the characters were acting and doing something for themselves.
I just have to take a moment to mention how much I adored Kate. She was strong. She was a leader. Yet she still had such an emotional journey. Of all the characters in the novel I felt that she had the most interesting growth. This may be because she had so much at stake in comparison to the other characters we followed. Ultimately I connected to Kate and wanted to see more from her perspective.
On the other side of that same coin was Alexa. I’m torn in my thoughts about Alexa. This is largely because I felt she faded into the background. She let things happen around her with no real opinion of her own on the matter. Over time that grew irritating. I wanted to know more about her. No person who witnesses all that she did would be so blank. Sure they may not emote as much, but we really didn’t get much from Alexa unless it related to her father or which of the Tin Men she trusted. That’s it and I really wanted more. That said, she does make a sudden turn, seemingly snapping out of that wallflower state late in the book. Unfortunately, it was almost too late. Even worse was that we never really saw what triggered that change in her.
One of the things that is so impressive is that you forget that a number of these characters are essential people trapped in robotic shells. You come to think of the characters just as people rather than machines. Then suddenly they are doing something amazing. These were machines inhabited by people and over time you simply forgot because you were so caught up in the very human emotions and conflicts that they had to deal with.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed the book. While it wrapped itself up nicely, it also left itself open just enough that I could see a potential sequel. Given the state of the world at the end of the novel, I would be interested to see what happens next. I may not have fallen in love with the story, but I did enjoy it and would definitely read the next book in the series should there be one.
Do you plan on reading Tin Men when it’s available?