The Silver Metal Lover: I fell in love with a book about love

Tanith Lee fantasy book review 1. The Silver Metal Lover 2. Metallic Lovefantasy book review Tanith Lee The Silver Metal LoverThe Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee

It’s unfortunate that Tanith Lee had to pass away for me to get the jolt of interest needed to read her work. The Silver Metal Lover, one of her most loved works, is a story about an immature love that blossoms into a fully realized one, and about an immature girl who cries too often and falls in love too easily but blossoms into a strong-willed, independent woman. It’s a story about Jane, and her relationship with her robot lover, Silver.

Were this tender novel published today, it would be shelved in the Young Adult section of a bookstore, but such a label had yet to be conceived when it was first published in 1981. It features some of the defining characteristics of that genre as well: a dystopic world whose foundations are crumbling (though in Silver Metal Lover the dystopic elements serve more as background), a young protagonist inexperienced in life and love thrust into a chain of events that will change her or his entire way of life, and a romantic interest perfect in every way, capable of wooing every woman and man. And yet The Silver Metal Lover is far from being a cliché. Just as the best books in any genre can be read and appreciated by even those who tend to read outside that specific genre, The Silver Metal Lover can be read and loved by almost anyone.

Jane has lived an cloistered life in an house high up in the sky, too rich to have ever needed something she could not get, with an intellectual if overbearing mother who encourages Jane to analyze her thoughts and to get to know herself deeply, emotionally as well as sexually. She has some friends, though she doesn’t consider them as such, and she knows she falls in love too easily with fictional characters and bursts into tears too easily over the most minor things.

Yet one day, in a luxurious party thrown by her friend Egyptia, she meets Silver. Silver is a robot, one of a new kind. Silver looks like a human, with auburn hair and silver skin, and he sings and plays any instrument like no other man can. Though she knows it’s crazy to fall in love with a robot, Jane thinks she sees in Silver something more, something that hints that Silver is indeed more than a robot, that he is a real person. Thus begins Jane’s story.

Tanith Lee is a romantic, for only a romantic soul could write a love story such as the one in this novel. In three hundred pages we experience the crazy swells of emotion that come from first love, the introspective calm of getting to know one’s true soul, and the intriguing excitement that comes from taking one’s life in one’s own hands. There’s heartbreak and joy, and Tanith Lee is capable of making the journey well worth it, casting aside the banalities of most love stories to tell us a story that we can relate to even in its strangeness.

Even though it takes a while to get used to the vision of the future Lee portrays — it was written three decades ago — the journey is worth the wait, and it will stay in your mind for a long time. It usually takes a lot for me to emotionally resonate with a book’s climax, but The Silver Metal Lover truly went all-in in trying to make me shed a tear. This certainly won’t be the last of Tanith Lee that I read.

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JOÃO EIRA, our first apprentice at Fantasy Literature, joined us in October 2014. João is a student at the University of Coimbra in Portugal, one of the oldest universities in the world, where he studies Physics. Having spent his formative years living in the lush vistas of Middle Earth and the barren nothingness in a galaxy far far away, he has grown to love filling his decreasing empty bookshelf space with fantasy and science fiction books. For him a book’s utmost priority should be the story it is trying to tell, though he can forgive some mistakes if its characters are purposeful and the worldbuilding imaginative. A book with no story can have no redeeming quality though. João probably spends more time fantasizing about books than doing productive things.

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One comment

  1. What I remembered from this was Jane’s mother and Silver’s music. It is a tender story and your review does it justice.

    Looking back, I am surprised how many of Lee’s books are fairly short; in the two hundred page range. She will be missed.

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