August 23, 2014

Review: MILA 2.0

MILA 2.0
MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Occasionally, a reader comes across a book s/he just doesn't click with. The reader may think the subject matter is right up her alley, and there's nothing all that wrong with the book, but it simply doesn't push the reader's buttons.

For me, Mila 2.0 is that book.

When I first checked it out from the library, I thought I would like it. It's right in the wheelhouse of the things I've been reading all year: a young-adult science fiction novel, described as "one part teen love story and two parts super-spy thriller." To distill a rather convoluted plot to its essence, a teenage girl slowly discovers that she's neither teenage or a girl at all; she's an artificial intelligence, a biomechanical android with implanted memories who was busted out of the lab where she was created by her "mother," the lead research scientist. Mila and her mother then go on the run, both from the sadistic lab boss who wants her back and another shadowy group who wants her for her abilities.

Just going by that description, the book sounds pretty exciting, don't you think? Yet I couldn't connect with it at all. I had to think about this for a while to come up with a reason why--and the reason why turns out to be Mila herself.

(That and a few logic fails surrounding the concept of an android who thinks she's human. Does she sweat, urinate, defecate, and menstruate? She certainly eats, drinks and feels hungry, or thinks she does. In one memorable scene, she has tubing and a "polymer hydrogel" under her skin instead of muscle tissue and blood, sort of a Terminator-lite; which, come to think of it, would apply to her character as well.)

To put it bluntly, Mila (in either her guise as a human girl or as an android) is an overemotional, angsty, whining mess. I can't figure out how that could be so without a working endrocine system and neurotransmitters in her reverse-engineered nanocomputer brain, and the explanation given for this simply isn't satisfying.

Unfortunately, said mess is necessary for the plot.

It's necessary because it sets her apart from the first of her kind, Mila 1.0, who had too many pain receptors and was eventually tortured to death, and Mila Three, who really is a Terminator lite and might even give Ah-nuld a run for his money. Because she's more angsty, no matter how annoying it is, she's more "human." She's learning and making her own decisions, and has obviously crossed the barrier into sentience, but you would expect any sufficiently advanced artificial intelligence to do that. The AI doesn't have to be a whiner to boot.

Mila began to grate on me very quickly, which is why I won't be reading the second book. However, for someone else, given this story, her characterization would be perfect. For me, it simply doesn't work.

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