An earnest sci-fi adventure about robotic evolution, from newcomer (and nuclear engineer) Marino.
â€œFor the first time in 100,000 years, something other than primates was competing for the title of dominant life form on this planet.” The planet is Earth; the â€œsomething other” are Athenas, robots that are becoming more sophisticated every day–more lifelike in a human way, as well as much more capable of understanding and using vast inputs of data. Unknown to each other, a select team of scientists develop the robots, tinkering with their particulars at separate facilities. One of these talents is Eric Lorenz, a nuclear scientist with an aptitude for complex computer work, who also suffers from a disastrous romantic life and the need for a parental figure–both circumstances intimately and affectingly etched by Marino. Though he doesn’t consider the Athenas an immediate threat, Eric realizes that, once ascendant, they may consider humans a nuisance not worth keeping around. But the greater threat comes from outside the hermetic walls of the research facility: humans, be they religious fundamentalists or latter-day Luddites, who have issues accepting robots as equals. Marino keeps the creation and functionality of the robots plausible with a nifty slathering of computerese–â€œOur processors are Alpha/Risk 8-chip clusters, using a flavor of Linux, with EMRAM and Media Butler style fixed data drives,” notes one Athena–which may snow some readers but will stand the test for the more technologically conversant.
Sprightly and open-ended, with an agreeable dystopian pitch.