The Silver Metal Lover

Tanith Lee
The Silver Metal Lover Cover

The Silver Metal Lover


Tannith Lee published her novel Silver Metal Lover in 1981 and this novel is a prime example of the beginning of the backlash to the easy going promiscuous sexual atmosphere of the 1970's and quite accurately predicts the conspicuous consumption of goods which so epitomized the 1980's.

Silver Metal Lover is the story of Jane, a 16 year old girl living in a futuristic society. Jane, or more accurately Jane's mother is ultra-rich and Jane lives a life of complete hedonistic luxury. It is clear from later chapters in the novel that the gap between the very rich and the working poor is extreme. Jane and her friends seem to have little or no goals or drive to achieve anything. They are the "Idol" rich and seem content to stay that way. Imagine the Wall Street yuppies of the mid 80's with the movie star/robber-barons of the 1920's. Jane's Moms house is filled with computers that do all kinds of neato things.

Sex is a big part of this novel. Not that there are a lot graphic sexual scenes in the novel but sex has become casual to the extreme at this point in the future and the main character, Jane is considered an aberration because at 16 years old she has yet to take a lover. Her other friends all started their sexual experiences at around 13. Now as anyone can see from the novels description Jane "falls in love" with "Silver" a new type of very realistic robot. Think "Terminator" type of real, except this robot has a light silver skin, thus the name "Silver."

I'm not sure if Ms. Lee intended this novel to be a tragic love story, but all I read was a tragedy. Her main character Jane is a character who is introduced in the beginning of the novel as what has to be one of the loneliest characters I have ever read. Although she is surrounded by a group of friends, these friends seem to have very little in common with Jane, and more to the point seem to be one of the most self-absorbed groups of characters I have seen written in a long time. Jane is further alienated because her mother is both smothering and aloof at the same time. All Jane's life her Mom has directed all the aspects of her life. And yet she seems to be unable to show the simple love of a mother to her child. It seemed only natural to me that Jane would love "Silver" the first being to ever show interest in Jane as a person.

I felt the need to qualify Jane's love of Silver in quotes because I really and truly question whether Jane actually loved this being or if this was the story of a young woman so starved for intimacy that she would cling to it in whatever form it came to her, even if it was in the form of a computer who admitted they were incapable of loving. I just found the entire plot to be so sad; the overwhelming emotion for me after finishing the novel was complete pity for Jane. I know Ms. Lee, in the last chapter tried to show that it was a real and emotional relationship shared by Jane and Silver, but I'm just not sure I bought it. I still feel that Jane moved that glass on her own and that she was a young woman clinging to the myth of her love because she was not getting it from any other source.

If Tannith Lee was trying to write a tragic love story, al Romeo and Juliet, for me at least she failed. But if she was trying to write a commentary about the impact to the individual in a society that glorifies casual and loveless sex and crass consumerism as replacement for love and companionship on more than a superficial level, I would say she succeeded. Either way I found Jane to be a tragic heroine. At the end of the novel all I saw was a deluded young woman who would spend the rest of her life pining for a "Lover" who showed her a little bit of attention denied to her by her family and friends.