Book Review – A Robot In The Garden

by Deborah Install (Doubleday) ISBN 9780857523020

Ben lives in Berkshire with his wife, Amy in the home he has inherited from his parents. Ben does not work, but thinks he would like to be a vet. Amy is a successful lawyer. The couple are not happy, but Ben seems oblivious to the dire state of his marriage.

Then a robot appears in their garden. This is not as odd as it sounds because the book is speculative fiction, set in the future or an alternative present, where every household has an android helper. For the first time in years, Ben is intrigued. Amy is not. She is not interested in the battered machine and longs for an android, which Ben refuses to get.

Ben’s obsession with the robot who seems to think his name is Tang, is the last straw for Amy and she leaves. Ben decides to try to find Tang’s manufacturer because he seems to be running out of an unidentifiable fluid that keeps him going. Concerned for his new companion’s well-being, he takes Tang to America in search of his maker.

Along the way, Ben rediscovers his humanity. Tang, who is more human than most people, teaches Ben to stop living like a robot. I loved this charming, whimsical book.

Amanda Patterson


Set in the not too distant future when all houses have an android for a servant, Ben meets Tang in his garden. Tang is a robot, an old, retro robot, with a leaky cylinder. Tang is damaged and helping him gives Ben a purpose.

Amy, Ben’s wife is less than impressed with her husband’s new obsession and leaves him. It’s not the only reason for her leaving, but let’s say it was the last straw. Ben and Tang set off on a world-wide adventure to find Tang’s creator.

I am in love, with a robot and this just when I had sworn off all pre-midlife male stories. Ben has to grow up and deal with his repressed grief and Tang, an evolving child-like robot, helps him and forces him back into the world he has been avoiding.

There are plenty of coincidences and the story has a deceptive simplicity to it, but I had a goofy grin on my face all the way through. And as the mother of two evolving humans Deborah got the tangtrum, question-asking, gaffer-tape fiddling, leg swinging aspect just right. Well done, Ms Install. I look forward to your next offering.

Mia Botha

Posted on: 5th June 2016