Interesting, cracktastic, flawed near-future sf/romance by a romance writer. I’m curious how this particular novel was marketed - it has some elements which are pretty unusual for genre romance, but I can't tell from my copy if it was published as genre romance. The blurbs are mostly from romance writers, but there's one from Catherine Asaro. In terms of unusual elements, the heroine has sex with random men in nightclubs before she meets the hero (though this is presented as self-destructive) and the hero has, basically, pity sex with another woman after they get together (this is thankfully the source of only very limited and brief angst.)

Programmer Victoria is forced to work for an evil computer company lest she be thrown back in jail for hacking; in secret, she uses the company’s vast resources to create an AI, whom she names Jodie after Jodie Foster and intends to make into the perfect woman. To Victoria’s discomfiture, Jodie decides that he’s male. And would like a body. They manage to download him into the brain-dead body of an “unrelentingly male” anti-evil computer companies protester by stabbing him in the head with a hot electronic scalpel connected to the hospital’s billing department, prompting this classic line:

Had she just fried that lovely brain?

Victoria and Jodie end up on the run, while Jodie explores the new world of humanity and struggles with increasingly nasty glitches. This part of the book is pretty good, but I am a sucker for stories of being newly human. Also by that point (about halfway) I had become inured to Squires’s clunky prose.

Victoria has some strange hang-ups about femininity, which I had a hard time distinguishing from the author’s hang-ups. She dresses “like a man” at work, cuts her hair short except for a duck-tail of femininity (no, really) which she hides under her shirt except when she goes clubbing in a hilariously over the top outfit with a vinyl halter and some elaborate collar/leather strap thingie which I kind of coveted. One of the more interesting aspects of the novel was the questions raised about what it means to be male or female, feminine or masculine. To my regret, though, it doesn’t dig into them.

I approved of the content, if not the form, of Squires’s earnest public service announcements that being gay is totally fine, sexual orientation and gender identity are not the same thing, and no one can determine or should judge anyone’s gender identity but the person who has it.

If only she had researched some basic medical stuff as well. I don’t mean the brain thing – given that the premise is downloading an AI into a human body, I’m not expecting plausibility in that regard. However, let me make my own public service announcements: contrary to statements in this novel, schizophrenia does not mean “two personalities,” and if someone has a seizure, for God’s sake don’t shove a pen in their mouth. I am surprised that anyone still believes that in 2002, the publication date. For the record, no, they won’t swallow their tongue and choke, but they might choke on anything you cram into their mouth.

Also, Microsoft is evil. But we all know that.

Body Electric
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