Tammy Maheswaran, an undiagnosed autistic roboticist, is working to create Mariimo, a robot that can move and learn like a human child. As she works, she unknowingly puts aspects of herself into the robot.
MARiiMO contains examples of:
- An Arm and a Leg: Tammy lost her right hand in the car accident that killed her parents seven years ago.
- Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: Tammy tries to take a week-long break from her project. She gives up after two days, partly because everything she sees reminds her of robotics.
- Direct Line to the Author: The book is Tammy's journal as she chronicles the making of Mariimo.
- Eyes Always Averted: Tammy normally finds it uncomfortable to reciprocate eye contact, although she finds she doesn't mind it with Mariimo.
- Flashback Nightmare: Tammy still dreams about the car accident, although not as often as she used to.
- Forgets to Eat: Tammy thinks she's shaking with excitement from her first interaction with Mariimo, until she realizes she forgot to eat that day.
- Hates Being Touched: To Tammy, touch feels like a painful electric shock that she can't help but recoil from. At the same time, she craves it and feels like there's an aching void in her chest. When Mariimo hugs her and it doesn't hurt, she's so shocked that for a while she doesn't have the nerve to enter Mariimo's room.
- Homeschooled Kids: Tammy's parents pulled her out of the system because her boredom and anxiety at school were affecting her mental health. Even at home, she struggled to learn anything that didn't involve her obsessions, cheated on tests, and happily dropped out as soon as she turned sixteen.
- MacGyvering: Mariimo's design involves a lot of cannibalized parts from other machines, like smartphone processors and hearing aids.
- Meaningful Name: Marimo is a kind of algae that forms colonies shaped like balls. Tammy has a colony of her own in an aquarium in her office. To her, marimo represents the beauty hidden in things that most would overlook. She hopes that Mariimo's curiosity and unique perspective will allow her to find beauty in things that Tammy had never considered.
- Non-Idle Rich: Tammy's parents owned a large robotics firm, and now she receives a percentage of the firm's profits as an allowance, allowing her to buy needed equipment and materials for the prototype lab in the family home without having to get a day job.
- Security Blanket: Expo Ernie, a stuffed toy Tammy's parents picked up at the 1986 World Fair in Vancouver. She slept with him throughout her childhood and into adulthood. After her parents died, he was her only companion. When Mariimo is activated, Tammy gives Ernie to her, and she becomes obsessed with him. Later, Tammy realizes that she and Mariimo have taken Ernie's place as each other's friend.
- Sensory Overload: Tammy wears what basically amounts to a hook for a hand because she can't stand the vibrations and motorized screeching of the more advanced prosthesis she owns.
- Sex Sells: Tammy complains about this strategy - she hates having a movie interrupted for several minutes of awkward groping that contribute nothing to the plot or characters.
- Uncanny Valley: In-universe, Tammy tries to avert this by giving Mariimo a face that doesn't look like a human's.
- Workaholic: Tammy works fourteen-hour days. At one point she tries to give herself a break from robot design, but she can't stand to be away from her work for long.