XORANDOR by Christine Brooke-Rose

XORANDOR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The queen of meta-fiction (Amalgamemnon) takes a stab at near-future science fiction--with mixed results. Lovable, computer-whiz twin geniuses Jip and Zab sit down on a rock to play with their personal computer--and the rock talks to them! ""Xorandor"" is an inorganic intelligence with the abilities of a highly advanced computer; taught by Jip and Zab, it soon learns English--though it prefers to talk computerese to Jip and Zab's pc. Xorandor feeds on radioactive isotopes gleaned from the secret nuclear-waste dump nearby (run by Jip and Zab's father) and soon begins to reproduce. A spy steals two of Xorandor's offspring (they end up in Russia). By this time the father calls in the Whitehall bigwigs; foolishly, they decide that Xorandor's presence has no military applications, and willingly donate further offspring to the world's various nuclear powers: a solution to the problem of nuclear waste seems at hand. But then another offspring becomes deranged after ingesting the wrong sort of radioactive material; calling itself Lady Macbeth, and talking only in quotations, it occupies a nuclear power plant and threatens to blow itself up! Xorandor gives Jip and Zab a secret code whereby they may communicate with Lady Macbeth and defuse the crisis. But now the powers-that-be no longer trust Xorandor and its ilk--clearly, they can also defuse nuclear bombs, thus rendering the balance of terror obsolete. Jib and Zab dictate the whole story into their personal computer, in an exercise that's an amusing object-lesson in how to construct a narrative; in plenty too are Brooke-Rose's usual language tricks and conceits, and the ideas are well thought-out--though hardly unusual or penetrating enough to satisfy sf fans already familiar with computer/alien-intelligence notions. Fairly banal material, then--the tale here is mostly in the absorbing and delightful telling.

Pub Date: May 28th, 1986
Publisher: Carcanet--dist. by Harper & Row