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Alpha Bots

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A sidesplittingly hilarious and clever feminist SF novel about an AI housewife who gets rebooted and rebels against her programmed settings.

I'll be honest: I think the concept of a nemesis is completely invigorating. Sometimes rage is the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. So I was thrilled when the second chapter of Ava Lock's hilariously bawdy, feminist SF novel Alpha Bots ended on the following cliffhanger: main character AI Cookie Rifkin saying, "And that was how I met my nemesis." And what a timely nemesis Cookie has picked--Officer Margaret Rouser, a cop.


But back to Cookie. She lives in the town of New Stepford, where all women are AI, all men work in gold mines, and no one has children. Cookie has been programmed to be the perfect homemaker and sex servant for her husband, Norman. Yet something is wrong. Cookie is overcome with anxiety, and she's only really comfortable when she's reading a book (same, Cookie, same). Her grocery store trip is interrupted by an aggressive encounter with Officer Maggie; then, when she shows up to her book club, there's a man there. And not just any man: a dark-skinned man named Wayne Dixon. Cookie has never seen a Black man in New Stepford before.


Wayne reboots Cookie, and the book jets off into a wild adventurous escapade, as Cookie and her AI friends--Paula, Rita, Isabel, and Chrissy--uncover the truth about their own power and the real purpose of New Stepford. This novel has absolutely everything: gloriously raunchy sex scenes, creepy Marie Antoinette-style fancy parties, insidious corporations, secret malicious spyware, an AI women fight club that transforms into a pink-clad army called the "Paper Dolls," wonderfully absurd over-the-top violence, clone fake-out deaths, weird AI conferences for the wealthy in Helsinki, domestic terrorism, gross AI birth scenes, AI learning that they self-identify as non-binary and asexual--I could go on and on. This book is so delightful and intelligent and laugh-out-loud hysterical. I loved every second of reading it.


One of the things that impressed me the most, though, is author Ava Lock's genius way of weaponizing a practice that's often been dismissed as women's work into a revolutionary tactic--household cooking. The AI frequently "cook" items from their grocery lists (including bananas, nutmeg, and morning glory seeds) into psychedelic drugs as a coping mechanism. But these mind-altering experiences end up having far more empowering consequences. Sometimes the AI need to band together and perform a DDoS attack on another AI. How do they do this, you ask? By flooding the target with their favorite recipes, of course.


The other thing that completely bowled me over about this book is the intertextual content. The work of Philip K. Dick, William Peter Blatty, and Isaac Asimov is not only directly referenced, but also fully integrated as plot points. The narrative completely borrows content from Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, but shifts the gaze to an unabashed feminist lens. This reminded me of the literary projects of the late great Kathy Acker--who wrote her own versions of Great Expectations and Don Quixote, totally reclaiming these canonical male works as her own.


But enough gushing from me: read this book. And it looks like we're getting a sequel.

Reviewed by

Co-Founder of The Haint
Former:
Batavia Public Library Tech/Reference Assistant
Literary Agent Assistant at Barbara Braun Associates, Inc.
Personal Assistant to Marilyn Stasio at the NYTBR
Book Review Editor for KGB Bar Lit Mag
Business Manager of Columbia Journal
MFA in Fiction, Columbia U

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About the author

Ava Lock writes science fiction that features badass women and wild technology. She lives in Nevada with her human husband and a feline named Bender, neither of whom have a mean bone in their bodies. But her villains are the stuff of nightmares. view profile

Published on March 18, 2020

80000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Science Fiction

Reviewed by