Alex + Ada, Volume 1 by Jonathan Luna
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Another from the IMAGE Humble Bundle…I honestly can’t get over how much of a great deal this was.
OK so Alex + Ada is a very simple story, nothing crazy or wild in the concept. Alex is a depressed 27 year old guy who’s been pining over his breakup for 7 months. On his birthday, his grandmother sees how down he is, and since she’s super happy with her robot paramour, she decides to send him one of his own for his birthday.
He gets it, and wants to send it back, but when he discovers that it will be wiped of all memory, he feels like it would be just as bad as killing a puppy or something like that.
So he decides to keep her, even though she’s woefully without personality or anything, just a pleasant hello, nice to see you Alex, I like what you like, yes that’s very nice if you say so.
She’s boring. He’s not impressed. His friends seem to accept this fairly easily, and all comment on how hot she is…
But she’s like a moving walking talking blowup doll with no personality, and Alex doesn’t want that.
Problem is, a year ago, the leading AI/Robot company had produced sentient robots, and they went nuts and killed 35 humans in the lab. Since then, all robot sentience has been banned, and that company has gone bankrupt.
The competitor company is the one who supplies Alex’s top of the line robot model, with no sentience.
Alex sees a news story about a robot that seemed to gain sentience, and attend a concert, only to be discovered as a robot and torn to pieces by terrified humans in a riot.
Instead of freaking him out, this makes him investigate what he can do to help his robot (now named Ada) to become more sentient.
It involves him going into the Virtual Reality customer support website, and into the forums (oh the forums! saviour of us all) where he discovers a secret place where there are human supporters of sentient robots and robots who have been “unlocked” from their sentience blocks. (This is explained rather practically, that the company had billions of dollars of inventory, when the robots killed everyone, so instead of scrapping them, they just blocked the sentient brain.)
Of course there’s then a sentient robot hacker, who “hacks” and reboots Ada, and of course, she’s now fully sentient…the end.
It’s got some very interesting questions about the rights of sentient life, and denying sentience to beings, as well as how to regulate robots and AI, which is science fiction-y, but also something in the scope of our lifetime which may be reality.
The big problem I had is that there’s no conflict, there’s no real problem here, just a bored, depressed dude who’s grandma gives him retail therapy. The world is so clean, perfect, sanitized, everything just looks clean and shiny. It’s boring. Yes, it’s nice to see a positive future instead of the post-apocalyptic wastelands we see as some futures, but still, it feels very shallow, where everyone is so pacified by their wonderfully easy and comfortable lives that there’s no issues.
Have they solved all problems? War, Famine, Homelessness, Disease? If so, well then super. I’m not sure because there’s no discussion of anything like that.
Alex is just a boring average dude. Yes, he’s thoughtful and sweet, and doesn’t try to stick it in her or anything, and he wants her to have sentience, which is great, but otherwise, I’m not very invested in him as a protagonist. He’s just too I dunno, milquetoast.
I’m interested to see if Ada’s gaining of sentience will lead to the usual robot on the run from the evil authorities, or if it will be a more micro-examination of the growth of her sentience.
I think the second would be more interesting, but you never know…Jonathan Luna was also the author of Girls, that abysmally misogynist piece of garbage I had the misfortune of reading a few weeks ago. So there’s part of that knowledge that bleeds into reading this, which actually makes Alex into a creepier character than I think he’s meant to be, but for all the people who say how sweet he is, he actually seems slightly creepy, and I don’t quite like the fact that Ada starts her existence as an intended sex toy present from his his Granny.
I think Mr. Luna probably has some strange ideas about how girls work, and this is one of those cases where I don’t think a man should be writing about women, because he seems clueless. I hope his co-creator, Sarah Vaughn, is going to be taking a bigger role in the writing, because I have this nagging feeling that he’s going to write it with Ada becoming protected by Alex and getting all attached to him. Seems kinda like ugh…I wonder if he would have written the story the same if the robot was a male? I think it would take away some of the creepiness for me.
That being said, it’s pleasant to look at, very bright, clean, and not violent, so there’s that. I also like the more philosophical parts about the rights of the AI/Robots versus humans, and that, but not so much the creepy blossoming “love” story. There’s plenty of real women out there dude, it’s pretty creepy for you to have a robot woman. Yes, I realize that you never took advantage, and you were a gentleman, and you made sure to lead her to sentience, but you’re kinda setting yourself up as her saviour, which makes for some odd relationship issues I’m sure.
I guess it depends for me on what happens in the next volume…I’m really on the fence here, but I didn’t DIS-Like it, so 2 stars seems a little harsh. 2.5-3 seems about right.
I want some of my female Shallow Readers to take this on and get their feedback, to see what they think, because for me it’s got creepy undertones which take away the potential sweetness of the story.
Anyhoo, that’s just me.
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