Welcome to the Lost Lands of Harkaway Hall, intrepid guests! The Lost Lands is one of the last nature conservancies in the world. See life forms in their natural habitats. Like them, even name them if you wish. Our helpful bods will sing and dance for you when they’re not keeping the Lost Lands in pristine condition. Want a rainbow? Our bods will make it happen.
Roz Morris has created a wonderful fable with Lifeform Three. The protagonist is one of the aforementioned bods, or robots, but there’s something different about him.
While the other bods desire nothing more than to redo, or clean, racking up scores as if poovering (vacuuming animal waste from the lawns) was a video game, Paftoo has other likes, ones that he must keep secret.
Paftoo (all the redo bods are paf-number, and while it’s never stated in the novel, paf could be an initialism standing for personal automation form or something similar), does not shut down at night like the other redo bods. He dreams. He also has memories that fight their way back into Paftoo’s consciousness despite sharing.
Sharing is a form of bod maintenance and the other bods crave it like a drug while Paftoo fears sharing will rob him of what he holds most dear: his memories of riding a life form three, a horse, his horse, Storm.
Morris asks questions with her tale: what makes us different, unique? Does being unique mean that we can never truly be part of a community? What happens when our uniqueness is threatened? What happens if our memories are taken from us? Can enforced conformity change who we are?
There are other issues woven through the tapestry, as well: what happens if humanity’s waste of natural resources continues unchecked? What if nature becomes a commodity, a property to be bought and sold, tailored to the tastes of its users? It is said that history is written by the victors of battle, but what if those victors are corporate heads, rewriting history continually based on what will sell best?
Lifeform Three is a tasty novel, reminiscent (for me) of the works of Ursula K. le Guin, or Sherri S. Tepper.
My highest recommendation.