Issue 10 August 2011 Book Review by Jezzy Wolfe: The Life and Death of a Sex Doll by Zoe. E. Whitten
A tag-team of sci-fi/ fantasy stories, The Life and Death of a Sex Doll are two separate novellas, neatly packaged together. And the title accurately sums up what you can expect from it… well, almost. Because Ashley Braun, former sex doll, is more than just an extra frisky Pinocchio stuck in a Jetson’s episode.
Adopting a Sex Doll begins with Kelly Braun, a woman whose life choices have alienated her from her family. Missing her loved ones and unable to bear a child of her own, she purchases a popular sex doll (named Ashley) and reprograms her to be the child Kelly can never have. But her plan was not thoroughly thought out, and she quickly discovers that a sex doll cannot be completely reprogrammed, which leads to more than a few awkward social catastrophes. Kelly searches for a creative solution, while learning to accept Ashley’s flaws much the way any real parent would. As fate and big business intervene, she finds herself with a family of dolls, a man willing to play ‘Dad’ in the weird scenario, and even a robotic pet dog.
When a Sex Doll Dies continues the story from Ashley’s POV. After an attack by a militant hate group destroys Ashley’s doll companions, she is left alone, confused, and wary… and unsure how to process such alien functions with her modified CPU. Her frustrations are furthered when Kelly decides against replacing her fellow dolls. Instead, Ashley receives an older body, giving her the opportunity to be in public without attracting the attention of other crazed people bent on destroying her. Because she no longer resembles the child Kelly initially created, she is given more freedom to do things normal teenager girls can do, such as get a job and start dating. She meets a boy named Brian, who, after coming to terms with what she really is, accepts her as not just a girl, but a true companion.
Kelly’s character is very easy to identify with, despite circumstances that not everyone would be able to directly relate to. She has spent her life trying to identify herself and find a way to fit in, usually without success. For that she feels rejected and on the outside. Who can say they haven’t felt that way at some point in their life? She fills the hole in her life with a child that she basically has to create on her own, and thusly has to learn what it takes to become not just a role model, but a mother. In the process she learns about acceptance, not just of Ashley, but also of herself. By the end of Adopting a Sex Doll she has not only adapted to motherhood, but also to a committed relationship with a man who is able to see past her history as a man to the woman she truly is inside and out. She is no longer alone or an outcast.
In a way, When a Sex Doll Dies is more a chronicle of Ashley’s second birth… not the moment she was initially activated, but when she starts to function as a human. Even though she never recognizes her reactions and emotions as anything more than sub-folders and processes, she responds to events and situations much in the same way that a real teenage girl would. Sure, kinda like Pinocchio, I guess, but without that annoying cricket. Or ridiculously big nose.
I tend to avoid sci-fi because heavily used computer jargon and a superfluous presence of robots and androids can be hard for me to connect to. I guess I’ve never been much of a techie geek. But with The Life and Death of a Sex Doll, I was able to breeze through the shop talk with a comprehension I usually struggle to find. There was plenty of humor throughout, which I always appreciate, and the story flowed easily. Yes, there is sex… it is about a sex doll, after all! But it wasn’t excessive or out of place. Despite a smattering of content that an uptight person might object to, I feel the book conveys an important message.
Ms. Whitten shows us that finding love and acceptance is possible for anyone who is willing to learn to love and accept themselves first. If you come away from a book with such a positive summation, then it’s definitely worth a read.
Zoe E. Witten’s book can be purchased at the following sites: