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In the Lives of Puppets


In the Lives of Puppets

In the woods, there is a quiet little home built into the branches of a grove of trees where three robots live, hidden and safe. The android dad, Giovanni Lawson, co-exists with a small vacuum wanting for love and a nurse named Ratched (yes, just like the one in the Cuckoo’s nest, only her name stands for Nurse Registered Automaton to Care, Heal, Educate, and Drill). She is constantly threatening the vacuum, yet somehow they all get along.

Then one day, Giovanni’s most secret dream comes true. A frantic and desperate couple comes running through the secret forest and gives Giovanni their young son in order to protect him. And yes, you would be totally correct if you said that some element of this story made you feel like you were listening to a twisted tale of Pinocchio. I won’t prove you wrong.

"Klune’s already large audience will enjoy this new adventure, but there may be something here that will reach people who need much more than just a fun read."

IN THE LIVES OF PUPPETS is the latest whimsical, sentimental story from the mind of TJ Klune, the king of the LGBTQ+ literary world. He believes that there must be better representation and uses his extensive writing chops to do it. THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA and UNDER THE WHISPERING DOOR are the toast of BookTok and Bookstagram. His stories center on lonely people leaving their own personal oases and going out into the world, sometimes by force, to make their way as best as they can. They survive and thrive and have a good outcome to their adventures. This book is no different.

Klune’s characters are sweet, often so innocent and naïve that they come off as unknowing victims of their surroundings. But they are smarter than that. Giovanni isn’t in the woods because he’s scared of the world; he has a particular fear from which he is hiding. When that fear and the people causing it return to force him out of his comfort zone and back into his old stressful work, the book leaves its whimsicality behind and becomes something deeper.

Klune writes like he’s telling a tale. He has a conversational tone that makes his work easy to read, yet there are depths to his stories that go beyond the fairy tale fixtures. IN THE LIVES OF PUPPETS is one such book. Giovanni and Nurse Ratched have long conversations about genitalia and if an android is pleasuring himself properly. It gets a little weird since they’re not even talking about humans, but I think we all get the drift anyway. Sex and identity are important aspects of Klune’s world, android or no.

Sometimes it comes off as completely inappropriate that androids are so concerned with private parts, although they are not actually human parts. Is the message that sex is a natural right for everyone and anything? The way that Klune goes on about such topics makes you feel that you as the reader must stretch your mind to consider the more serious matters hidden inside secret forests and boys made of everything but skin.

IN THE LIVES OF PUPPETS is a strange yet affecting tale about so many things, written with the heart of Hans Christian Andersen (now a gay icon) and the wordy chops of Kurt Vonnegut. Klune’s already large audience will enjoy this new adventure, but there may be something here that will reach people who need much more than just a fun read. Queer representation is key these days, and Klune is trying surely and steadily to help build what his readers crave.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on May 6, 2023

In the Lives of Puppets
by TJ Klune

  • Publication Date: April 25, 2023
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books
  • ISBN-10: 125021744X
  • ISBN-13: 9781250217448