Young Adult - Sci-Fi
332 Pages
Reviewed on 11/25/2017
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    Book Review

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.

Charles Remington

The thrilling opening scene of Exotiqa by M. Black finds Flexbot 001001F2050A running for her life. With the introduction of Exotiqa software, things have taken a sinister turn at the headquarters of the global robotics manufacturer ImaTech, and she is determined to make a new life for herself on Vancouver Island. Hunted by robots who were once her friends, and monitored by the company’s airborne tracker spheres, she steals into the bedroom of a young stranger to hide, to try to shake off her pursuers. The occupant of the bedroom is Fione, a young woman who has her own suspicions about what is happening with the Flexbots and Exotiqa - things which seem to be invading every part of daily life.

At this time in the future, most citizens are fitted with ‘slabs’ (surgically implanted network interfaces) which enable them to communicate, work or access the internet, but also to download the latest software with the Exotiqa program proving to be hugely popular. Fione worries that the school friends who have downloaded Exotiqa seem suddenly distant, almost zombie-like, and resents the pressure everyone seems to be under to download this seemingly ubiquitous product. Discussing her doubts with Flexbot 001001F2050A (whom she nicknames Maci), her disquiet increases and when incidents of robots killing humans start to multiply, they decide that something must be done. Together with Pix (a Flexbot friend of Fione), they embark on a roller-coaster journey to the headquarters of ImaTech. Pursued by robots and laser-armed tracker spheres, they push themselves and their Landrover to the limit using forest track roads to reach their objective. But is it remotely possible that they could overcome such a powerful, influential, multinational corporation and its robot army?

Robots trying to take over the planet has been a sci-fi staple for many years, and countless authors from the famous to the not so well-known have penned their dystopic visions of this possible future. Exotiqa makes a blockbusting entrance to the genre, even if Ms. Black’s robots come across as a little too human, with their ability to tremble, cry and even get a lump in the throat when distressed. The book is well-written and moves at a brisk pace through an intelligently-structured narrative. There are many unique ideas and concepts here, and for the young adult audience that Ms Black is targeting, the novel is well balanced. A worthy addition to the literature of robotic Armageddon.

Kim Anisi

Exotiqa by M Black is the first novel in a series called Exotiqa World and is set in the not too distant future: 2055. Fione, a human, meets Maci, a robot who is on the run from ImaTech, a company specializing in providing human-like bots to human households and businesses. Bots are used for all sorts of jobs, but there is a problem: they have become more and more like humans. And some even develop a true consciousness - like Maci. Maci is not only a thorn in the side of her creators because she is different and regularly breaks her curfew (other bots stick to the rules, no matter what), but because she knows something she shouldn't. It all has to do with a software called Exotiqa, which is not only downloaded into bots, but also the implants of humans. And the software is taking over. Fione witnesses herself how it changes her father and mother - but can the unlikely team of Fione, Pix (Fione's best friend - also a bot) and Maci take on a huge company like ImaTech? And who is really behind the software that could take over the whole world?

It took me a few chapters to get into Exotiqa by M Black, as the writing style is a bit different - but it fits the type of novel and the plot very well once you get used to it. Once the plot started to thicken, it was hard to stop reading (but life gets in the way of spending a whole day reading, unfortunately). I spent a few evenings with Fione and her friends, and found the experience very interesting and entertaining. The questions raised about artificial intelligence reminded me of the episodes with the android Data in Star Trek TNG. It is a topic we should think about because there's no way we won't get to the stage that we have androids/bots walking amongst us. AI is getting more and more intelligent by the week. Will it one day overtake us and outsmart us? Maybe. It definitely is exciting material for a novel and M Black has done a great job of turning the topic into a book very worthy of reading.