Mini-Review: SPEAK by Louisa Hall (Ecco/Orbit)

HallL-SpeakUSAn interesting, multi-narrative look at AI and what it means to be human

In a narrative that spans geography and time, from the Atlantic Ocean in the seventeenth century, to a correctional institute in Texas in the near future, and told from the perspectives of five very different characters, Speak considers what it means to be human, and what it means to be less than fully alive.

A young Puritan woman travels to the New World with her unwanted new husband. Alan Turing, the renowned mathematician and code breaker, writes letters to his best friend’s mother. A Jewish refugee and professor of computer science struggles to reconnect with his increasingly detached wife. An isolated and traumatized young girl exchanges messages with an intelligent software program. A former Silicon Valley Wunderkind is imprisoned for creating illegal lifelike dolls.

Each of these characters is attempting to communicate across gaps — to estranged spouses, lost friends, future readers, or a computer program that may or may not understand them. In dazzling and electrifying prose, Louisa Hall explores how the chasm between computer and human — shrinking rapidly with today’s technological advances — echoes the gaps that exist between ordinary people. Though each speaks from a distinct place and moment in time, all five characters share the need to express themselves while simultaneously wondering if they will ever be heard, or understood.

This is an interesting novel. I had pretty high hopes, when I first learned of it, and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed. Through four loosely-connected narrative strands, Hall has created a beautifully-written novel about humanity, artificial intelligence, and relationships. With just one caveat, this is an excellent novel. Continue reading

Excerpt: STEEPLE by Jon Wallace (Gollancz)

WallaceJ-2-SteepleUKThe second excerpt of the week (after Al Robertson’s Crashing Heaven). Published in the UK yesterday by Gollancz, Steeple is the sequel to Jon Wallace‘s well-received Barricade. Here’s the synopsis:

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep meets The Raid in this high action SF thriller.

Another high action SF dystopia perfect for fans of Richard Morgan and Alfred Bester alike. The follow-up to the acclaimed Barricade this another short, sharp and kinetic SF thriller

Kenstibec is a Ficial – a genetically engineered artificial life form; tough, skilled, hard to kill. Or at least he was. He’s lost the nanotech that constantly repaired him. Life just got real. Just like it is for the few remaining humans in this blighted world – the Reals; locked in a fight over a ruined world with the Ficials they created to make Utopia.

And now Kenstibec must take a trip to the pinnicle of our failed civilisation. The Steeple is a one thousand storey tower that looms over the wreckage of London. It is worshipped, feared and haunted by attack droids and cannibals. And the location of a secret that just might save Kenstibec’s life.

The only way is up. Continue reading

Trailer: CHAPPIE

CHAPPIE, the new movie from Neill Blomkamp, director of District 9, Elysium and (as I recently learned) 3D animator for Stargate SG-1 and Smallville. Here’s the synopsis…

Every child comes into the world full of promise, and none more so than Chappie: he is gifted, special, a prodigy. Like any child, Chappie will come under the influence of his surroundings – some good, some bad – and he will rely on his heart and soul to find his way in the world and become his own man. But there’s one thing that makes Chappie different from anyone else: he is a robot. The first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. His life, his story, will change the way the world looks at robots and humans forever.

This looks marvellous.

Chappie