Tag Archives: technology

Book Review: A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @zaraalexis / @zaraasian

a robot in the garden


Category: Contemporary Fiction

Author: Deborah Install

Format: Paperback, 288 pages

Publisher: Random House of Canada

ISBN: 978-0-345-81533-0

Pub Date: June 30, 2015


A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install is a sweet, fictional debut novel about a child-like sentient who calls himself Acrid Tang, a decrepit, but high-functioning artificial intelligence who surpasses even the modern android’s level of programming.

He is first discovered by Ben Chambers as he spies him randomly sitting under a tree in his garden and is quickly taken by him, his unexpected appearance and lack of ownership, and his unique body architecture obviously built by a creative and innovative maker.

With no knowledge of where or from whom this robot originates, Ben Chambers, takes it upon himself to journey across the globe to uncover the mystery behind Acrid Tang’s unusual build, worn-down condition,  and exceptional giftedness. In the process he travels from the United States to Tokyo, Japan, then to Koror, Palau, and back again.

In the process, he not only attempts to uncover the mystery of Acrid Tang’s beginnings, but through his challenging  journey, discovers his own potential for acceptance and healing after the hidden grief of mourning the death of his parents, and a new ability to take on more responsibility without fear.

The result is a sincere look at the interrelationship between an orphaned, sentient being and a grown man capable of new ambition and familial love.

The novel is a light read, its narrative grounded in Ben Chambers’ seriousness and Acrid Tang’s childlike naivety. And while the robot evolves, so does his human counterpart. They both learn from each other, the aspects of trust, the discrimination against the old and the broken, and the ability to see one’s own limitations and choose to move beyond them.

I did, however, find the character of Ben Chambers’ easy wealth, far too easy, in order to substantiate his costly journeys around the world in search for Acrid Tang’s mysterious beginnings. If the reader can forgive this character’s and/or novel’s flaw in the plot, the adventures themselves are neither exciting, nor commonplace, but an attempt to generate movement in the plot’s story and increase the characters’ bond of friendship and love.

Overall, Acrid Tang, is the robot-Pinocchio, whose faulty, cracked cylinder, pulsing heart, and peeling gaffer tape which holds him together, house an innovative program of self-awareness and earnestness unparalleled by any other AI in existence within the novel.

It’s that uniqueness that makes this novel a traditionally “coming-of-age” story—for both its Artificial Intelligence community and the humans who choose to live amongst them.

Zara’s Rating

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About the Author

From http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/authors/257875/deborah-install. Photo by Hannah Montague.
From  Penguin  Random House website.  Photo by Hannah Montague.


Deborah Install has been writing fiction since childhood, submitting her first book to a publisher at the age of 8. Her love of writing persisted, leading to a number of jobs, including web journalism and her most recent role as copywriter at a design and marketing agency. She lives in Birmingham, UK, with her husband, toddler and affectionate but imperious cat.

–  Bio from inside jacket of novel.


What is your view of Artificial Intelligence and sentient beings and their place in society today and in the future? Do you agree or disagree with their existence?

If you were an “owner” of a fully functional AI android, what would you like it to do? What would you like its primary function to be?

Do you believe AI androids to be a realistic part of our future? Do you believe AI androids should have full autonomy and be considered persons under the law? Why or why not?

What are the dangers of implementing fully functional AI androids into society as we know it? What do you think would be their limitations?


Zara - blue fur

Wish List Wednesday: For the Gamer in Me. 04.25.2012

Wish List Wednesday:

For the Gamer in Me

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

Okay, so I’m not really a gamer. I’m more like the prehistoric equivalent of one. “In my day,” (as the older generations seem to reminisce more and more about) I had the pleasure of witnessing the “dawn” of machines transform into home computer technology through such icons as Vic 20 and the Commodore 64. This was an exciting time for us who could now move our play of Pacman and Donkey Kong from the pinball arcade houses to the privacy of own homes.

Vic 20. The way it was.
Pacman from 1973.


The kids, now, with their technological savvy may laugh with the huff and puff of GB superiority, but the creative power of their tech toys and games had to originate from somewhere even if its humble beginnings were first the DOS-style games such as The Juggler!

The Juggler game on the Vic 20, one of the first. Its medium was on a cassette.


Needless, to say, I’m not a techie. My Dad, however, is a retired LAN Administrator, AKA computer specialist and tech-savvy troubleshooter, so the mainframe of computers were always a part of our jargon and our home.

If my Dad wasn’t tinkering with hardware, he was programming software. If he wasn’t solving network problems or saving the corporation he worked for from losing millions of dollars, he was showing us the love of computers and its games–whichever one it was, of course.

I’m not an expert, but I have a secret passion for the game—and don’t laugh please—Tetris. More specifically, Tetris Attack!


And so, for this Wish List Wednesday feature, I must confess the following are high on my wish list:

Tetris Heat Changing Mug


When cold, the Tetris Heat Changing Mug shows a game of Tetris in its early stages. But pour in some hot or boiling water and it’ll reveal a game in full swing – level number, current score and all. I’m an avid mug collector and this mug is a sure favourite that I hope Santa will be kind enough to remember come Christmas time (yes, that means you, husband dear!) Available from firebox.com.

Tetris Tote Bag


Who can say no to a tote bag? Especially a Tetris one? All the more to store my books in for Tote Bag Tuesdays at the Bibliotaphe’s Closet.

Tetris Magnets


Because your game should always be on (the fridge)! Or at the very least, your tips and tricks at leading the championship. Available on etsy via Argopiffs.

Tetris Pendant


I’m into jewellery. Wearing this is surely to mark me as a hardcore Tetris Warrior! Available from etsy via marikesh.

Tetris Pillow


Need to recuperate from dropping tiles? Best to “drop” your head on this Tetris pillow. You know…for a short nap before your next game! Available from etsy via Nancy from Paris, France.

Tetris Dress


I’m an avid vintage buyer and this little Tetris-inspired baby doll dress in green is perfect for me! Available from etsy via Tortoises Treasure.

Tetris Soap


For the sweet-smelling man in my life—and to make sure he stays that way! And so he can also forgive me for always beating him at Tetris, this form of bribery always works best!

Tetris Link


Tetris Link is great for the days at the cottage or when there’s a power outage in your area. Because now you don’t have to depend on Tetris online to give you your fix.



iPad 3. Call me a sellout. It’s okay. I want one. All the better to blog with, My Love. And also to carry and read 1000’s of ebooks, which I can’t do right now because I don’t own an e-reader device—yet.

Steve Jobs: A Biography

STEVE JOBS: A BIOGRAPHY by Walter Isaacson.


 I’m fascinated with anyone who’s highly intelligent, driven, and creative. All words synonymous with the late Steve Jobs, the apple of my eye. I still have yet to own and read his biography written by Walter Isaacson. But, I will. I will, so help me, Apple!


 That’s it for my Wish List this week! It’s been such a busy time I actually haven’t had the chance to even play Tetris. When I take a break today, I’ll sneak in a few rounds! To you Tetris Warriors on Tetris Attack, all I need to say is:

Anywhere. Any time. Any place.

Let’s play!


If you had to choose one game you could play ABOVE any others, what game would it be and why?