Teddybear, Teddybear by Don Callander

Teddybear, Teddybear by Don Callander
Publisher: Mundania Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (192 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

After years of development, David Wellesley, PhD, a scientist with the Johnson Space Flight Center in Dallas, created a prototype of a revolutionary new Artificial Intelligence Brain, designed to drive the planned Mars Explorer for NASA.

As he is finishing up the project, he receives a visit from Erich, a heavy set man with an even heavier German accent, whom he met briefly at Harvard the year before. Erich begins to grill David for information about the AI Brain, then hotly demands that it be turned over to him for a private sector project named Gamma. When David refuses the demand as he had promised it to NASA, Erich leaves in an angry mood.

Suspicious of Erich’s intentions, David decides to hide the AI Brain in his granddaughter’s teddybear–one of the latest Talk-and-Toddle teddybears, that can walk and learn to respond to basic spoken phrases. David had purchased the bear for his granddaughter as a Christmas present, and it was left in his care when his daughter’s family took a trip to California.

That night, something amazing happens as the teddybear sporting the new AI Brain achieves true consciousness. He realizes he can think, he can plan, and it is a good thing, too, because the next day David is kidnapped. By searching police and other databases via telephone, Teddy manages to alert the police. Soon Teddy is obligated to reveal his new status to the Wellesley family and Sergeant Joe Verdigo, as they all race to save David.

Thus begins the unlikely career of a two-foot tall, furry Private Eye.

Good detectives not only need to know all of the rules, they need to know when and how to break them.

What could be better than a crime-solving stuffed animal? Teddy’s intelligent – if sometimes slightly awkward – attempts to figure out human society were nearly as interesting as his quest to help David. Sometimes he reminded me of how small children imitate the adults around them without fully understanding what the grownups are doing or why they’re doing it. In other scenes I was surprised by how intuitively Teddy’s new brain processes all of the clues about what’s going on. He’s a surprisingly complex and fascinating character, and I found myself staying up late to finish just one more chapter in his adventures due to how eager I was to know what happens next.

The pacing of each case itself was solid, but sometimes the transitions between them were abrupt. At times I wondered if they were originally a series of short stories that had been rewritten into a full-length novel. I don’t know if this is how it actually happened, but it is how they came across at certain points.

With that being said, the cases themselves captured my attention. Some of them bring out Teddy’s most enduring flaws. Seeing how he attempts to compensate for them over time made me like him and the various people he works with even more. It must be jarring to be interviewed by a walking, talking children’s toy, and the scenes that address this were some of my favourite ones in the entire book.

Teddybear, Teddybear kept me on my toes. This is a great example of how the science fiction and mystery genres can blend together seamlessly, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is a big fan of either one.

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