Title: The Cybernetic Tea Shop
Author: Meredith Katz
Series: Solitary Travelers Collection
Genre: Sci-Fi Ace Romance
Clara Gutierrez is a highly-skilled technician specializing in the popular ‘Raise’ AI companions. Her childhood in a migrant worker family has left her uncomfortable with lingering in any one place, so she sticks around just long enough to replenish her funds before she moves on, her only constant companion Joanie, a fierce, energetic Raise hummingbird.
Sal is a fully autonomous robot, the creation of which was declared illegal ages earlier due to ethical concerns. She is older than the law, however, at best out of place in society and at worst hated. Her old master is long dead, but she continues to run the tea shop her master had owned, lost in memories of the past, slowly breaking down, and aiming to fulfill her master’s dream for the shop.
When Clara stops by Sal’s shop for lunch, she doesn’t expect to find a real robot there, let alone one who might need her help. But as they begin to spend time together and learn more about each other, they both start to wrestle with the concept of moving on…
Source: ARC from Less Than Three Press via NetGalley
This was a delightful and quick little read about a different kind of romance, between two different kinds of people. Clara is a restless traveller, who never spends more than a year in one place, passing through, fixing robotics and moving onto the next place. The only constant in her life is Joanie, her hummingbird Raise (a robot with a touch of AI). They’re a strange and slightly abrasive pair, but I loved their friendship and the way they balance each other.
Then, one day, Clara enters the Cybernetic Tea Shop and finds Sal. Sal is a true AI who has been running the tea shop for almost three centuries. Sal is used to being viewed as a novelty and she tries not to mind too much. Especially when she has other issues to occupy her – keeping the shop open, avoiding damage from vandals. Sal is sweet and hard working, trying to keep her head down and avoid notice, but things with Clara are far from simple.
I really enjoyed this. The way Clara and Sal grow gradually closer, from curious to caring, is nicely told despite the shortness of the tale. The trust that builds between them and the relationship they develop was lovely to read about and I liked how the asexual element was raised and dealt with without fuss or bother. I just plain liked the whole thing, really.
If you’re looking for a simple kind of sci-fi that deals with emotions and what truly makes something a person – even if they aren’t human – then give this a try. It’s kind of quiet and nice and ripples along without too much excitement, but it’s enjoyable and the characters are good. I only wish it could have been a bit longer – I want to know more about what happened next.
The Cybernetic Tea Shop is Out Now!
Visit Meredith Katz for more details.