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The Automatic Detective
A 2008 novel by A. Lee Martinez, this is the story of Mack Megaton, a machine designed to be a warbot but who happened to become sentient. He rejected his programming and tried to join society as a citizen (a rare occurrence). However, his peaceful life is upended when he becomes embroiled in an ancient conspiracy, kidnappings, dames, and pretty much every single Film Noir trope in the book, combined with a (deconstructed) Raygun Gothic setting. Martinez does a fantastic job of world-building, giving you a glimpse into an interesting, well-developed world.


This work provides examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Mack was built to be a general in an army of Mecha-Mooks built for domination. However, he spontaneously developed sentience and rebelled against his programming, and just tries to live a simple life.
  • Alliterative Name: Mack Megaton
  • Androids and Detectives: Surprisingly averted. There's only one main android character, and he's also the detective. His interactions with Jung do form a buddy cop dynamic at times, though.
  • Broke Episode: Pretty much the beginning of the book. Mack can't find much work, but fortunately doesn't have much for expenses, what with being a robot and all.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Or rather, "Lying makes you emit a hypersonic whine that sensors can pick up."
  • Elite Mook: Mack's original purpose.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Mack's best friend, Jung can talk. Also the only being Mack can borrow clothes from.
  • Film Noir: ... you think?
  • Healing Factor: Mack himself has nanomachines for an epidermis, which lets him heal from cuts and dings. Granted, it's at a pace more akin to human healing but for a robot, that's pretty damn good.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Mack, being a robot, does not "see" or "think" the same way a biological does, so it's natural for him to think in terms of "scanning" and "computing" and it comes out in his speech.
  • Hot Scientist: Lucia Napier, one of Mack's allies. Also fills the Femme Fatale role as is common in noir, even though she's clearly good, Mack questions her motives at times.
  • Instant A.I., Just Add Water: AI may randomly be sentient off the production line. There's no way to predict, cause, or undo it, and is the subject of much research.
  • The Mafia: ... the boss is green.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Mack faces off against a bunch of "dumb" versions of himself, but being an Elite Mook himself, as well as intelligent, he's much more dangerous.
  • Nanomachines: Mack's outer skin is made of nanomachines so it can repair itself of cuts and dings, but not immediately (much like human skin).
  • Private Eye Monologue: Even before Mack became a Private Eye.
  • Raygun Gothic: Deconstructed, as Mack was designed to be one of the evil robots in one of these settings.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: An enforced aversion, robots (even sentient ones) are not allowed to pass for humans. Mack has a bright red face for this precise reason (though it does set him apart from the "dumb" robots.
  • Robosexual: Er, sort of. Empire has a closeted minority of "technophiles" who... have a THING about robots. The nature of Lucia's interest in Mack is carefully left ambiguous. And it is also left vague what the technophiles DO, as robots are probably not equipped for "it" (and at least in Mack's case, it would be a Man of Steel/Woman of Kleenex situation.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Mack's a machine, his best friend is a talking gorilla, his neighbors are mutants, and they are all considered second-class citizens.
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