My Best Friend Runs Venus

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

My Best Friend Runs Venus by Katrina S. Forest was...okay. And frankly, that's really just the best way to put it. This book had a rather fascinating premise, that of a somewhat matrix-like world where all of humanity is now living in little pods and controlling robotic bodies across space. Adults, unfortunately, struggle to remain in control of robotic bodies for extended periods of time and therefore spend a lot of time sleeping. Children, however, are able to control their bodies for what seems like an indefinite period of time. Oh, and none of the kids know what death is and their robot bodies can get hacked.

I had a lot of fun reading this book, but I wouldn't say it was anything amazing. There were some intriguing facets to the whole story, but nothing was really explored in-depth. And, to be fair, this is a children's novel so perhaps that expectation might have been a bit high. There's definitely a juvenile feel to the entire book and plot. Even the villain seems rather young minded, despite being an adult. But it was interesting enough to keep me engaged and entertained.

I think the problem I had with My Best Friend Runs Venus really just comes down to the level I felt that I was reading. It seems to be a book for a higher age interest level, but I would probably read this to a younger kid, if I read it to them at all. I really enjoyed the artwork peppered throughout and I adored the premise of the plot. The characters were all okay, barring Princess Nyx who I loved immensely. I also thought she was kind of tragic and didn't get nearly enough "screen time."

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, but it was nothing brilliant.

I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Strange Robot in a Strange Land: A Review of My Best Friend Runs Venus

For those of you who grew up with their noses buried in a book, there’s a very comforting and familiar tone associated with the best fiction written for twelve-ish-year-olds. There is a sense of adventure and wonder that authors like Enid Blyton and C.S. Lewis managed to convey in much of their work. It’s dangerous, and sometimes terrifying, but in the end, the gang comes home, and you can turn off the lights with a smile on your face. My Best Friend Runs Venus by Katarina S. Forest takes this writing tradition and sends us on an exciting journey around the Solar System of the future.

The mechanics of the story sound a little complicated, but make sense in the narrative. There’s a problem with Earth - it apparently isn’t what it used to be. It’s changed from a pretty cool place to hang out, to an inhabitable wasteland. All of the rocky bodies within reach have been colonized - the Moon, Mars, Venus, Triton, Io...but not by people, per se. Robots roam around these planets and satellites, controlled by the consciousness of kids sleeping back on Earth. There isn’t a lot in the way of magnificent buildings or cities, but through Augmented Reality (AR), and a variety of sensors in the robots, the kids experience vast palaces, an expansive environment, and glorious weather - they don’t experience the real hellscape of Venus, but rather one adjusted and vastly improved. There is a social structure of sorts - a “Royal Family” of princes and princesses, complete with a retinue of servants and associated staff. Make sense? It’s like a dream, only you’re not really sleeping, you’re controlling a robot on a far-off planet that sees and feels everything, relaying the experience back to your body on Earth.

Tamika, the Princess of Venus (14), and her “official companion” Kade (12.9, and the owner of sort of a gargoyle “body,” with wings and claws) live in this world. Kade is somewhat of a tech whiz, using the AR experience and all of the information available to him in a series of “screens” that he can view to analyze, and somewhat shape his reality. They seem to be the first generation of humans really bred to it - they note how clumsy adults are when they inhabit the robot bodies. The kids know the robots and the systems inside out, and have no problem “hacking” the systems to find information they might need. 

Tamika’s family has a dark past - her mother, Azra Bell, is known as the “Great Traitor,” and is known for her role in trying to destroy the new and fragile civilization. This doesn’t sit well with Tamika, and together with Kade they concoct a plan to use a banned “transporter” to travel to another world, and set the record straight. This is where the fun begins - their unauthorized activation of the transporter frees a treacherous character from the past, who threatens to pick up where she left off 10 years ago and proceed back to smashing up the galaxy.

The story’s pacing picks up here and doesn’t let off until the end. We bounce around in a desperate, wild chase around the solar system, as the young protagonists try to contain an ever-worsening situation. The story draws from several influences -  The Matrix meets Ready Player One, with elements from Lord of the Flies and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The book is in the vein of Robert A. Heinlein’s transitory period - fighting the constraint of being a pulpy kid’s author, he began to inject his work with more serious themes - readers of Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, and Podkayne of Mars will be in familiar territory. The story does venture into cyberpunk topics towards the end, with some questions about the humanity and purpose of the machines and the people in the story. Augmented Reality is a relatively new and fascinating subject, and the book uses it well as a framing device. 

The science presented is interesting, but not so dense as to alienate a younger reader. In fact, it serves as an appetizer for headier works by more esteemed authors in the genre, such as Arthur C. Clarke in one direction, or William Gibson in the other. The chapters are short, interesting, and interspersed with fun illustrations. My Best Friend Runs Venus can be consumed in an afternoon by an adult, or a few days by a teen, and can be enjoyed equally as well by both.
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A cute read. The story is great for younger readers being easy to read and follow. The ideas in the plot are enough to keep some older readers interested as well. The concept of the story is a nice fresh look at future life possibilities with settlements on other planets.  Tamika and Kade are great characters for youth to follow, getting into trouble and then needing to figure things out on their own will resonate with early to mid teen readers. Some subtle lessons about appearances, age and status are neatly woven in so they may not even notice lessons being hinted at.
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I received an arc of this book on netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I got pretty confused about what was happening, and i'm not sure how appealing this one is, because it is definitely one of the more ''out of the box'' space books i've read recently. Also, I get that the kid was kind of numbers obsessed but it got kind of annoying after a while.
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My Best Friend Runs Venus is a fun book with an infuriating ending. I should add that when I say infuriating I don't mean that I didn't like it, it was just one of those moments when you find yourself screaming "WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS!?" to a bunch of fictional characters.

I found it a little difficult to read at times - the main character, Kade, has a big thing about numbers, so every time something involving numbers comes up it gets really specific. 'In exactly 2.5 minutes' or 'in 3.4 seconds X, and 2.8 seconds later, Y', that sort of thing. It completely fits the character and I understand *why* it happens, I just found it a little difficult to work with. But that's basically my only criticism of the book - other than that it's a fun read with some interesting world-building and has great potential for more!
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I appreciate having had an opportunity to read this book in ARC form. The appeal of this particular book was not evident to me, and if I cannot file a generally positive review I prefer to simply advise the publisher to that effect and file no review at all.
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