The Perfect Wife is a science fiction thriller.

J. P. Delaney isn’t a science fiction writer. In fact, he’s not even J. P. Delaney. He’s a bestselling British author named Anthony Capella who writes under several different names (Anthony Strong, Tony Strong, and J. P. Delaney). His books about food, his favorite topic, appear under his own name. He also writes thrillers, of which the latest is The Perfect Wife. It appears to be his first science fiction novel, although I suspect he prefers to regard it as simply a thriller.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Abbie Cullen wakes up bandaged in what seems to be a hospital, wondering how she got there. She’s in her twenties, an artist, a mother of a young severely autistic son, and wife of Tim Scott, a multimillionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur widely regarded as a genius in artificial intelligence. Oh, and she’s also what Tim calls a cobot, a companion robot. “‘You’re artificial,’ he explains. ‘Intelligent, conscious . . . but man-made.'” Later, she asks, “‘What am I? A prototype?’ He shakes his head. ‘Much more than that. A quantum leap. A paradigm shift. And, most important, my wife.'”

The Perfect Wife by J. P. Delaney (2019) 412 pages ★★★★★

A science fiction thriller that’s full of surprises

Clearly, there’s a backstory here. And Delaney uses the next four hundred pages to tell it. He does so adroitly, steadily building suspense. He tells Abbie’s tale in the second-person singular, as though the narrator is addressing Abbie herself. Much of the backstory, though, spins out in the first-person plural from the perspective of the staff members at Tim’s robotics company. It’s a puzzling approach but is perfectly logical, as the ending makes clear. But the story is full of surprises, and you’re unlikely to understand until you get there. Oh, and Delaney saves the biggest surprise of all for the end.

I’ve reviewed a number of other good books about artificial intelligence. You’ll find them listed (and linked to my reviews) at Two dozen good books about artificial intelligence reviewed here. However, if you want to read a book about a robot companion that’s much LESS well done, see Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (A Nobel Prize-winner’s perplexing science fiction novel).

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