“I will gladly do anything you ask as long as it does not harm humans, animals, or property. I will avoid putting myself in danger unless it is to protect you or by your command. The Tanaka logo on my wrist is the only physical indication that I am an android and I am required by law to keep it exposed at all times. I am not allowed to handle legal tender or helm a vehicle, so please keep that in mind if you send me out on errands. I am in your hands, now. Please take good care of me.”
Meet Ada the android
An emotionally depressed 27-year-old Alex in a future I, Robot society with Batteries Not Included robot elves receives his grandmother’s birthday present – a Tanaka X5, the first human-looking andorid. (Anyone else get confused with Jessica Alba’s X5 genetically enhanced generation in Dark Angel?). Alex has no intention of keeping his grandmother’s hugely expensive gesture, finding her sexual partnership with an X5 a little creepy.
Otto looks remarkably like the Fix-its in Batteries Not Included (1987)
For safety, no android is autonomous. Don’t bother asking one for an opinion, they have no preferences. Their default is whatever their owner wishes. At least that’s what the public’s been told, though recent events in the news seem to contradict this. Alex tries to return his X5 but found his conscience couldn’t allow it. Her childlike intellect (they learn through experience) leaves her vulnerable. One friend phrased it as ‘ . . . like getting a girlfriend and a baby at the same time.’ No one would treat a baby as property. Instead Alex saw her potential. Loneliness probably also had a hand in his decision to keep the newly named Ada. After all, what’s better than having a friend you know won’t betray or leave you.
In order to help Ada, Alex searches for the truth behind the headlines using Prime Wave-X, which is a way to telepathically connect to a virtual reality internet via a brain implant. Can androids be more than what they are? Can they be freed from the shackles of slavery? Ada’s eventually unlocked like a mobile phone – a painful and illegal process androids aren’t guaranteed to survive, and should the authorities find out, everyone involved would either be decommissioned or imprisoned.
Alex’s depression and awkwardness in response to this new responsibility were realistic, although he does come across as monotone and unemotional with his lack of conviction or eagerness about anything in particular, which made it harder to care about him. Strange, because I immediately liked Ada, the one without human feeling.
However, the fantastic detailed worldbuilding and illustrations more than made up for it, in my opinion. The technology involved in Alex’s morning routine, the news broadcasts reporting on controversial android stories and the virtual reality internet forums have all inspired me to read the next volume. That being said, I’ve seen I, Robot at least a dozen times and Alex + Ada is very similar in its philosophy. They share themes of slavery, freedom and what it means to be human.
P.S. Watching TV while in the driving seat has already been done. At least Luna’s way looks safer and less illegal.