The Hierarchies, by Ros Anderson

The words ‘feminist dystopia’ are enough to put many folk off reading a book, but this book, which fits that description, is a great read and deserves much wider recognition than it has had. Set some years in the future in an unnamed country, it is a story told in the first person by the protagonist is a Sex Doll. Created in a factory, she was not ‘off-the-peg’ but made-to-order for the man she calls her Husband. This is a world where most male sexual needs are catered to by these dolls rather than human women. So, all women are either ‘created’ or ‘born’. Her ‘Husband’ is married, and he and his wife eventually have a baby. He is obviously a wealthy man as he has specified that his doll should have various (expensive) attributes. is installed in a room at the top of his house and has no contact with any other member of his household, except for the rare times she can observe them in the garden below. is an android, a robot created in human form with a titanium frame in a silicone body. She has real hair implanted in her head. She has no internal organs apart from her vagina (which the factory manual recommends being replaced every 5 years). 

The .ie part of’s name is short for ‘Intelligent Embodied’ and she fits all the requirements her Husband requested. Her primary function is to serve him and his wishes. She may not do anything which would harm him or any other human. He lavishes expensive and luxurious gifts on her and he had requested that she be able to learn from him. To achieve that, she has been given a modicum of curiosity. She longs to learn more about the world outside her window, but one day she oversteps the mark – seeing her husband’s baby in the garden and in possible danger she ventures down from her room to assist. As a result she is sent back to the Doll Hospital (factory) to be re-calibrated. Once she is returned from ‘treatment’ she decides to run away and find out more about the world. And so she does. 

What transpires is the major part of the novel. is an intriguing heroine with a naïve curiosity and also an often astute understanding of what ‘life’ is about. Through her, the author is able to examine big ideas such as love, sex and power, and what it means to be human.

The idea of a doll coming to life is a very old literary trope – think of Galatea and Pygmalion, the ballet Coppélia, and horror movies featuring ‘Chucky’, an evil doll who comes to life. What differentiates this novel is that the author has taken that concept and married it to the real life work on AI and robotics being done these days, primarily in Japan.

Sometimes dark, often very funny, mysterious, and always thought-provoking this book is a really good read. Do not be put off by the fact that it is about a Sex Doll, there is nothing prurient or crude about the book. This is the author Ros Anderson’s first novel. She and her partner have recently moved to live here in Pittenweem – she is one of our own!

We have a copy of The Hierarchies in the library. 

Reviewed by a library member