In The Lives of Puppets – TJ Klune

Published By: Pan Macmillan
Pages: 432
Released On: 25/04/2023

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? 


Thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I didn’t get the Pinocchio connection at first, I thought it was going to be a tenuous link made for the blurb. But then you get it. Little things that alone don’t make up Pinocchio, but together – wood, inventor, father and son, a whale, the blue fairy, the coachman – then you get the connection and it’s nicely done. He’s not gone down the complete retelling route, or a like for like, it’s somewhere in between. Familiar and comforting but new and exciting.

This isn’t an adaptation of the Disney film. Whilst the film did have some darker moments, it’s ultimately a nice family, child friendly film. This is an adaptation of the original book by Carlo Collodi, which is dark. Darker than you may expect. Therefore this adaptation is not all sunshine and light.

What I love about Klune’s books are they are so full of love and full of being comfortable about love, being allowed to love who you want and that’s so warming and so needed in society.

I’ve read some reviews – and not just of this book – where readers get annoyed that it’s depicting a romance between two men. And besides that being a stupid opinion to have, I don’t think it matters. And I mean that in the best way. I don’t sit here and read Klune’s books focussing on two men being in love. I sit here reading about two characters in love. Does the queer element matter to me? Not particularly, but that’s because I’m lucky enough not to have been prejudiced against because of my sexuality. But to me, it’s a love story. End of. Everyone deserves to be in love.

They may just be stories. They may just be fiction. But they are important stories. They are powerful fiction. To know you’re not alone. I just hope he realises just how vital his storytelling is.

It’s a wide world with several different characters, but the main ones we have are Victor, Gio, Hap, Nurse Ratched, and Rambo. Victor is a fabulous main character, and I think being the only human in the mix, you can really see his humanity, and the vulnerabilities that come with that. His father Gio is a complex character who I won’t go into too much detail about for fear of spoilers. Hap, the handsome android. Nurse Ratched, a wonderful pun of a medical machine. And then Rambo, is above and beyond my favourite character. He is a vacuum cleaner and a hilarious one at that. And he’s obsessed with the movie Top Hat, which meant I constantly had Cheek To Cheek in my head. 🎵 Heaven. I’m in heaven. 🎵

The level of detail is extraordinary. From the trees to the machines, to the friendship and the love, everything is given it’s own time to shine, and shine it does.

Under The Whispering Door was my first Klune book and it was unlike anything I’d read before. He has this tenderness within his words that was so unique and with so much heart. And he’s done it again with this one. It’s just so beautiful. It’s going to take a lot to beat Under The Whispering Door for me, but this is pretty darn close.

Out of his books that I’ve read, there’s only been one that I didn’t feel was for me, and even with that, I still get excited when I see a new one is coming, as he just has this unique ability as a storyteller. There really isn’t anyone quite like him writing today, in my opinion.

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