COG by Greg Van Eekhout, 208 pp, RL 3
COG by Greg Van Eekhout
Cover & spot art by Beatrice Blue
Purchased from Barnes & Noble
A quirky narrator, COG (short for cognitive development) is a seven-month-old biomaton who looks like a twelve-year-old boy. Inquisitive and eager to learn by nature/programming, COG takes seriously a bit of wisdom Gina, his creator/developer shares with him after a hilarious, failed trip to the grocery store: "Good judgement comes from experience, but experience comes from bad judgement." Gina breaks this down for COG, telling him that, "we learn by making mistakes." Eager to learn by way of making mistakes, COG makes just about the biggest one he can when he tries to save a Chihuahua and gets hit by a truck. COG wakes up in an unfamiliar place with a man named Nathan staring down at him. COG is being repaired, but he soon comes to realize (when Nathan tries to remove his brain) that Gina was working on something both valuable and dangerous called the "X-module," which is embedded in COG, and that this X-module stands in direct opposition to everything that the head of uniMIND is working for. As COG meets the many robots at the uniMIND laboratory, from Proto, a dog-bot who is being whacked with a hockey stick in order to test his "ability to complete tasks while faced with distraction," to the single-minded Trashbot and self-driving Car, he comes to understand exactly what uniMIND's ultimate goals are and how they stand in opposition to his own most basic operating procedures.
When COG decides to escape the lab, he meets ADA, his sister, also escaping, who tells him she is, "a weapon. I am a offensive." They pile into Car, along with Proto and Trashbot, and begin the long drive to headquarters in Ohio, where COG believes Gina is working. There are hilarious moments, like a stop at Wiener Mountain where, after winning a wiener eating contest we learn that biomatons can regurgitate biofuel, and many suspenseful moments as the robots are ultimately captured upon reaching headquarters. As COG comes to understand the function of the X-module (it gives robots free will) he learns how to use it to make his way to Gina and rescue himself and his new family.
The climactic ending of COG is filled with cinematic action. But, like COG himself, it is the earnest curiosity and empathy and love for all creatures imbued in this book that will linger with readers.