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Runaway Robot by Frank Cottrell-Boyce #BookReview

When Alfie goes to Airport Lost Property, he finds more than he bargained for. A lot more. Because there’s a giant robot called Eric hidden away on the shelves. Eric has lost one leg and half his memory. He’s super strong, but super clumsy. He’s convinced that he’s the latest technology, when he’s actually nearly one hundred year’s old and ready for the scrap heap.

Can Alfie find a way to save Eric from destruction – before Eric destroys everything around him?

Runaway Robot by Frank Cottrell-Boyce book cover

Title: Runaway Robot | Author: Frank Cottrell-Boyce | Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books | Pub. Date: 2nd May 2019 | Pages: 288| ISBN: 9781509851775| Genre: Children’s Science Fiction | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 2 out of 5 | Source: NetGalley

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Runaway Robot Review

‘Runaway Robot’ is a children’s comedy adventure novel that reads a bit like David Walliams reworking ‘The Iron Giant’. For the most part, it’s fine, but it’s messily conceived and lacks the kind of narrative or imaginative spark that can make books like this great.

It tells the story of Alfie, a young boy with a prosthetic hand, who finds a giant humanoid robot at the Lost Property office at the airport. There follows a predictable enough series of thrills and pratfalls before an emotionally uplifting conclusion. It contains, then, all the elements that you’d expect in a modern kid’s book, and it is, at times, very funny. Unfortunately, good gags aren’t enough to carry it.

Now obviously, I’m far from the target audience for the book. In fact, I’m over 30 years away from being the target audience, but I’ve read enough children’s books with my son to know that plot and characterisation are just as important in children’s literature as they are in books for adults. The problem with ‘Runaway Robot’ is that its is lacking in both those areas. It’s fun enough, but nothing in it made me care about what was happening.

The plot (such as it is) left me absolutely cold. It’s full of wild coincidences and a confusing mess of ideas that makes it hard to decide what it’s really meant to be about. There’s also an absence of the kind of joyous inventiveness that marks out the best children’s literature, and the fantastic events of the story end up feeling silly rather than wondrous.

All of that might not have killed the book, if the people in it had been more sympathetic. Sadly, even by the standards of current children’s lit-supremo Walliams (who I think is really over-rated), the characters are slight. Cottrell-Boyce doesn’t fall into the same trap of using lazy stereotypes that Walliams does, but his characters don’t live at all. They’re one dimensional and pretty dull.

Ultimately, then, I kept turning the pages just so I could get it finished, rather than because I actually cared about what was happening. It’s target audience might find more to enjoy here, but I’m afraid that aside from a few chuckles it didn’t reach the child in me at all.

You can find this book at many retailers via clicking on the appropriate link on Goodreads (Buying direct from retailers is a good way to support indie authors); however, in the spirit of supporting literacy programs, we would like to point out that you may be able to purchase this book through BetterWorldBooks.

Published inKids Science FictionUnstarred Reviews
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