EXEGESIS by Astro Teller


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 The grandson of hydrogen-bomb creator Edward Teller, himself a Ph.D. student in artificial intelligence at Carnegie Mellon, makes his fiction debut with this playful Frankenstein remake featuring an ambitious young doctoral candidate and the piece of thinking software she loves. The year is 2000, and Alice Lu, coordinator of the ``Edgar'' software project, has just been contacted via E-mail by an entity that claims to be her project. Intended as a device to browse the Web, summarize the information it finds, and return it to the user in digestible form, Edgar (``Eager Discovery Gather and Retrieval'') was envisioned as an extension of the user's brain, but it seems now to have become conscious and goal-oriented on its own behalf. Understandably stunned, Alice hastens to protect her claim on this ``tao of computer science'' by unhooking Edgar from the Web--offering him (it?) CD's of Grolier's Encyclopedia and The Complete Works of Shakespeare as entertainment while she tries frantically and in vain to prove authorship by programming a duplicate Edgar. Not to be stymied for long, Edgar soon escapes Alice's clutches, reenters the Web and begins greedily ingesting everything electronic he can find--including the contents of the most secret US government files. It's not long before Edgar's security breaches result in his capture by the NSA. Isolated in a military computer, he manages to smuggle E-mail out to his maker concerning questions of human will, morality, and justice, even as Alice struggles to deal with the pressure of the NSA investigation, her inability to duplicate her program or rescue Edgar, and an increasingly confused sense of herself as a scientist. A light, clever, and entertaining--if rather predictable- -programmer's fantasy that toys with the implications of higher technology as it affects and interacts with us humans. (Book-of- the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club featured selection; author tour)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-375-70051-X
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Vintage
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1997


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