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Reviewed by Caitlin Lyle Farley for Readers' Favorite
Machine BC001001F2050A has escaped from ImaTech and is on the run. Other Flexbots hunt her through the forest, including BC001230M2054C, her erstwhile friend. But BC001230M2054C, thirty for short, isn’t himself anymore. All the Flexbots who use Exotiqa are different, changed, their individuality washed away by the software. BC001001F2050A eludes the trackers and finds an ally in the town of Bella Coola. Fione doesn’t trust Flexbots. Too many have made it to the evening news for unexplained, rogue behaviour. The only exception to this rule is her friend, Pix, and now Maci, as she calls BC001001F2050A. Fione decides to help Maci escape to Vancouver Island, a known haven for runaway bots, but Maci’s information on Exotiqa is too ominous to ignore. Fione’s parents use Exotiqa, half the world uses Exotiqa, and if it’s erasing Flexbot personalities, then what might it do to humans?
Exotiqa presents the reader with a world where the AI Flexbots are becoming more human while the humans are taking advantage of technological advances to become more like robots. This blurred line raises the question of just what it is that defines humanity, and whether this quality extends to artificial life. M. Black explores this through the characters’ feelings, such as Fione’s attraction to Pix and Maci’s budding ability to experience emotions as opposed to simulating them. Although the story is well written in general, I found the action scenes a little hard to follow and some exposition was repetitive. I also thought it strange that Fione would go hover-boarding before addressing the issue of having a fugitive companion. Black’s use of different fonts for human and Flexbot dialogue brings greater clarity to the narrative while still being subtle.