Delighted to share with you all my review of this wonderfully funny, clever new book, from Simon Stephenson. Thanks to Amber, at Midas Public Relations, for my digital copy and for my place on the blog tour.
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Available now in hardback and EBook.
Set in 2054, when humans have locked themselves out of the internet by forgetting the names of their favourite teacher and first pet, Simon Stephenson’s dazzling debut, Set My Heart to Five, is a hilarious, touching, strikingly perceptive story of the emotional awakening of an android named Jared, and a profound exploration of what it truly means to be human.
Set My Heart to Five is set to become a major motion picture with Edgar Wright directing, and Working Title, Focus Features and Universal Pictures producing.
Set My Heart To Five is a wonderfully written, witty, clever, emotional and thought-provoking read.
Jared, our endearing narrator, is a human-looking, flesh and blood bot designed specifically to be a dentist in a slightly dystopian future. It’s clear he has some independent thought but his duties consume his day. Bots don’t have feelings, this lack of empathy makes them great dentists, but Jared wakes one day to find a number in his head, counting down to his retirement. Under the guidance of a friend he begins a journey of self-discovery.
The early part of the book sets up a recurring theme of the absurdity of human life and our (future) way of life as seen by the detached observer. This endears us to Jared as we join him on an odyssey of self-discovery.
As part of his therapy Jared falls in love with “classic” movies which as the reader you identify from his short descriptions, the titles are never revealed, each is cleverly used as a parable as Jared’s personality develops.
There’s plenty of fun and some jeopardy as first in paranoia and then in reality as Jared is chased to Hollywood, where he is, in turn, chasing his dream to make humans like bots, by an unlikely hunter. Full of cleverly written jokes, the story is a pacey mix of human behaviour, chasing a dream, love and loss, risk and reward. There are elements of a thriller, and the use of the future to look back on the absurdity of today is consistently used throughout.
Not wanting to give too much away the book is a classic underdog-with-special-powers story, which becomes a little ironic as Jared’s mission proceeds. It also has a serious message on the struggle of the outsider to be accepted and the desire, even for those without feelings, for a release from loneliness.
Simon Stephenson is a Scottish writer based in Los Angeles. He previously worked as an NHS doctor, most recently in paediatrics in London.
His first book, LET NOT THE WAVES OF THE SEA (John Murrays, 2011), was a memoir about the loss of his brother in the Indian ocean tsunami. It was serialised as ‘Book of the Week’ on BBC Radio 4 and won ‘Best First Book’ at the Scottish Book Awards.
Simon moved to the US followed the success of his spec screenplay, FRISCO, a semi-autobiographical story about a depressed doctor who desperately needed a change. The script was at the top of the Blacklist – an industry-voted list of Hollywood’s favourite unproduced scripts – and opened the door to a screenwriting career in the US. In 2015, Simon was photographed alongside Phoebe Waller-Bridge as one of Screen International’s ‘Stars of Tomorrow’. His friends never tire of telling him that Screen International were at least half right.
As a screenwriter, Simon nonetheless continues to be much in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. He spent two years writing at Pixar in San Francisco, and originated and wrote Amazon’s forthcoming feature film LOUIS WAIN (starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy). Julia Roberts attached to his screenplay TRAIN MAN, and the film rights to SET MY HEART TO FIVE were pre-emptively acquired by Working Title Films, Focus Features, and Nira Park’s Complete Fiction Pictures. Edgar Wright is set to direct the film from Simon’s screenplay.
One of Simon’s most memorable moments from his time in Hollywood was taking a meeting with an actor he admired most, and then having said actor kindly insist on driving Simon home in his distinctive vintage Porsche while telling him about his mind-blowing stories about his canonical body of work. As a token of thanks, Simon then gave that car to the villain in Set My Heart To Five!