In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune

Published in hardback on the 25th April 2023.


'From New York Times bestselling author TJ Klune, In the Lives of Puppets is a queer retelling of the Pinocchio tale, inviting you deep into the heart of a peculiar forest and on the extraordinary journey of a family assembled from spare parts.

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?’

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed The House in the Cerulean Sea, I have kept a keen eye on TJ Klune’s other titles. What stands out in his work the most, for me, is the characters; always compelling, always loveable and each unique, while also showing that really, humans are all the same in our weird little ways. I thoroughly enjoy TJ Klune’s commentary on human nature and the way we form relationships with one another, seemingly a running theme in the novels I have read of his so far.

In the Lives of Puppets has the perfect cast of characters, Rambo, an innocent and adorable vacuum, being my personal favourite. Each character bounces off one another in the most enjoyable way, with a hilarious and heart-warming dialogue between them and a connection that’s crafted beautifully. Klune creates an immersive, addictive atmosphere, from the cosy forest that we start the journey in, to the industrial City of Electric Dreams, representative of a world that doesn’t seem far from reality.

Amongst many comfy, sweet and hilarious moments, there’s also an underlying tension throughout the novel, the feeling that everything could unravel for the beloved characters you so badly want to succeed. Mostly thanks to Nurse Ratched, the feisty and sarcastic healthcare robot, there’s deliciously dark humour weaved throughout the story that breaks up the cute moments between characters. The story dives into themes of sex, relationships, sexual identity and what it is to love, all while gradually building a gorgeous, rather complicated, relationship between Victor and HAP, that doesn’t feel rushed nor unrealistic.

If you’re a fan of The House in the Cerulean Sea but want something a little darker, all while keeping the cosy moments, hilarious dialogue and loveable characters, In the Lives of Puppets is the one for you.

-- Amy