Cross-posting this from Goodreads, because once you write a few hundred words on another website, you kind of feel like you should harvest it back to your own blog, no? That’s what the insecure hustle voice in my head says anyway, as racking up word counts here on my blog matter to me for some reason. And, to be perfectly honest, it’s been a long time since I actually finished a book, and that feels worth noteworthy in its own way. Call it pandemic blues and the Sisyphean nature of parenting toddlers everyday that combine to make one feel horribly…unproductive, as a person. Being a human is complicated, and with that I will transition to this human/AI love story review.
I haven’t read that much commercially published romance, but coming from the fanfic world, I found this pretty darn enjoyable, maybe surprisingly so. It’s light, easy, and fun reading, and the audiobook is easy to listen to, despite the robotic direction of many chapters. (I actually developed quite the soft spot for the Li Wei POV, which fully tracks with my preferences in fic. Stilted personality+pining is absolute magic for me.)
With some fiction audiobooks, I suffer from impatience to hurry along to the next scene, plot point, or POV, but that wasn’t the case here. It moved along briskly, helped by the the plot being liberally seeded with foreshadowing, and the protagonist being something of a shallow thinker for her POV chapters (for significant character and plot-related reasons and not because she’s a two dimensional construct that the author didn’t bother thinking enough of).
I suspect, but don’t know exactly, that many readers won’t be necessarily be familiar with the soft sci-fi setting, but think more Minority Report than Star Trek. It’s a half step removed from today, with lots of familiar progressions to current modern life, like technology that listens to you constantly and monitors your vitals, location, and habits. The author chose the setting with definite purpose though, as I don’t think it’s set any further along in technological progression than it strictly has to be for the events and ethics of the story to take place.
Oh, and the sex scenes! Because this is a romance. This book would actually rate as Explicit in fanfic world, which is a welcome change from the last romance (well, romcom) book that I read. Well written, not very long, and emotionally engaged.
I think the only thing I’d ding about the book or production is the voice acting and direction of one of the side characters, Dr. Zhang, who put on a very…theatrical affectation that I found distracting and overdone. It was in stark contrast to Mindy Kaling’s fairly chill and slightly sassy AI persona, Penny, and the very casual and down-to-earth personality of Regina Hall’s Trinity Jordan, and I’m sorry to say that that specific portion of the audiobook didn’t work for me, although there isn’t that much of Dr. Zhang in the book in general (thankfully). I wonder if I’d up it to a 4.5-5 kind of star rating if I’d read this book instead of listened to it.
In sum: sometimes light romance reading with genre overtones is what you want! And that’s this book.
One last note about the subject line of this post, in case it’s driving anyone crazy (and I wouldn’t blame you, it was a very casual bilingual pun), here’s the explanation: 爱 is the Chinese character for love, pronounced like a long i vowel, and it’s transliterated as ai, as it happens. So…putting the ai in A.I., putting the love in A.I…you know, this pun just works. And Li Wei being Chinese? I mean, did Alyssa Cole intend for this intensely satisfying bilingual pun? I’d like to think so, to be honest. If I’m wrong, maybe don’t tell me.