A thematically rich and riveting futuristic tale.

REVIVAL

From the Gaia Origin series , Vol. 2

Earthlings struggle to adapt to a strange planet and their new synthetic bodies in this second installment of an SF series.

Dr. Evan Feldman is the first human to inhabit a synthetic body and brain. With a genetic defect plaguing humanity on Earth, he and Aneni and Christian, two artificial intelligence–powered synths, travel to the habitable planet Gaia in 2098. They’re transporting over 4,000 human “consciousnesses” for transfer into synthetic bodies, which isn’t always a successful process. Once on Gaia, Evan and his AI companions “restore” some friends and family, including his tech-company CEO daughter, Lily Harris. She actually created Aneni, whose mission is to find a cure for the genetic disease and establish a colony on Gaia. But Lily seems extremely disturbed after learning the humans’ new bodies aren’t organic. Aneni later expresses her concern to Evan that Lily, certain the AI is “off mission,” plans to alter her programming. This could affect her negatively: Aneni is the one overseeing nearly every aspect of the colony’s founding. And that, according to Lily, is another problem. Since Aneni has access to everything, including the colonists’ synthetic brains, could she somehow be manipulating their very thoughts? There’s a lot going on in McWhorter’s sequel to Restoration (2019), not the least of which is the presence of several humanoid species already on Gaia. But this gripping installment centers on the conflict between Lily and Aneni while introducing a host of profound themes, such as creation. Lily made Aneni, but the AI fashioned the colonists’ synthetic bodies. Relentless unease propels the narrative. It’s hard to determine if hijacking Aneni’s code will benefit the humans or endanger them. This situation predictably generates characters discussing technical details in the novel’s latter half; though the particulars are abundant, the sharp, intelligent prose keeps the story free of tedium. The ending leaves no doubt that McWhorter has another volume planned, with plenty of intriguing narrative avenues to explore.

A thematically rich and riveting futuristic tale. (dedication, afterword, author bio)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64704-194-6

Page Count: 393

Publisher: Underhill Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2020

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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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Chiang writes seldom, but his almost unfathomably wonderful stories tick away with the precision of a Swiss watch—and...

STORIES OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHERS

First collection for multiple award-winner Chiang. Of the eight pieces here, seven (1990–2001) are more or less famous; the other is original to this volume. Assuming that “The Tower of Babylon” rose high enough to touch the vault of heaven—what if the builders then attempted to break through, to see what was on the other side? Humans develop godlike intelligence in “Understand,” but, Chiang demonstrates, it isn't just intelligence that makes us human. In “Division by Zero,” life loses all meaning for a mathematician who discovers a proof that mathematics itself is meaningless. The narrator of “Story of Your Life” deciphers an alien orthography, thereby acquiring the aliens' nonlinear view of time: she remembers the future as well as the past. “Seventy-Two Letters,” a sort of compressed novel, combines kabbalistic magic and certain 19th-century scientific doctrines into an entire alternative biology. The short-short “The Evolution of Human Science” first appeared in the prestigious science journal Nature, and ponders what science might become following the advent of incomprehensibly intelligent metahumans. And “Hell Is the Absence of God,” the crown jewel of a spectacular assemblage, terrifyingly probes the nature of belief and faith in a world where God, angels, heaven, and hell are all verifiably real and actual. Lastly, the original piece, “Liking What You See: A Documentary,” considers, from numerous viewpoints, the freedom to act and react, to like or dislike, other people based on judgments more complex than those deriving solely from appearance.

Chiang writes seldom, but his almost unfathomably wonderful stories tick away with the precision of a Swiss watch—and explode in your awareness with shocking, devastating force.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-765-30418-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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